As reward for winning the Super League once again, Chelsea qualified directly for the group stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The importance of direct qualification was highlighted by fellow Super Leaguers Arsenal and Manchester City getting eliminated in the qualifying rounds, leaving the Blues as England’s sole representative in the competition.
But if we are to do the league, the nation, and, first and foremost, ourselves proud, we will have to navigate what could be a tricky group stage, including the runners-up from Spain, Real Madrid, who are up first.
And of course this will be the final Champions League campaign for Emma Hayes as Chelsea manager, so let’s start it off on a good note!
Date / Time: Wednesday, November 15, 2023, 20.00 GMT; 3:00pm ET; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Estádio Alfredo Di Stéfano, Madrid, Spain
Referee: Frida Nielsen
Forecast: Mostly clear skies and light wind
On TV: none (US); TNT Sports 1 (UK); none (India); none (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: DAZN (US); discovery+ (UK); none (India); none (NGA)
Real Madrid team news: After finishing second behind all-conquering powerhouse Barcelona, Madrid went out and signed Signe Bruun in the summer. The Denmark international attacker has 6 goals in her first 8 games to lead the team — though she mostly let others take the glory by getting just one in the 7-1 demolition of Real Sociedad over the weekend.
Madrid beat Vålerenga, 5-1 on aggregate in the qualifying round to earn their place in the group stage, and have won nine of the ten matches they’ve played this season in all competitions. (Though they have Barcelona coming up this weekend, so it they could be in for choppier water in these back-to-back contests.)
Unfortunately for the hosts, star midfielder Caroline Weir has been lost for the season with an ACL rupture suffered at the end of September.
“We’re going to approach this game in the best possible way and we’ll go out to compete well against a very tough side. We’re playing at home, we have good momentum at the moment and we’re going to go out for the win”.
-Alberto Toril; source: Real Madrid
Chelsea team news: We might have expected more rotation from Emma Hayes on Sunday with this matchup looming, but as it turned out, Everton were tougher than expected. We needed all the big names to collect all three points in a very important three-nil win, and maintain the three-point gap at the top of the table.
And we’re going to need those same names to step up today once again. Twenty-two players travelled; among those staying behind is Guro Reiten, plus long-term absentees Catarina Macario and Kateřina Svitková.
“Nobody in this dressing room underestimates the quality of the opponents we face, in particular a Madrid team who we drew with last year. We have to maintain the standards we set for ourselves in this competition and we’re very much looking forward to it.”
-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC
Previously: A fairly even encounter in last year’s group stage ended 1-1, with Real Madrid getting in front in the first half and Chelsea scoring via an own goal in the second.