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Olympique Lyonnais Féminin vs. Chelsea FCW, Women’s Champions League quarterfinal: Preview, team news, how to watch

First leg!

Olympique Lyonnais v Chelsea FC: Quarter-Final 1st Leg - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The Chelsea men’s team may be on international break and replaced by cringeworthy cross-promotional content for a Ted Lasso episode, but thankfully we have some proper football to look forward to with the women’s team in the quarterfinals of the Champions League!

And what a tie this promises to be!

As on the men’s side (with Real Madrid), Chelsea have been drawn against the most successful team in the history of the UEFA Women’s Champions League: Lyon have won it eight times, twice as many as the next best team (Frankfurt); and they’ve won six of the last seven! The one time they failed to win in that period was when a rampant Barcelona beat Chelsea in the 2021 final.

Lyon beat that Barcelona team in last year’s final.

But let’s see what is written among the stars for this one.

Date / Time: Wednesday, March 22, 2023, 17.45 GMT; 1:45pm EDT; 11:15pm IST
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon, France
Referee: Tess Olofsson (on pitch); Pol van Boekel (VAR)
Forecast: Sunny spring has sprung in France

Streaming: DAZN (USA/UK) and on YouTube

Barcelona v Olympique Lyonnais Women Champions League football final match Photo by Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Lyon team news: After winning 14 (fourteen!) French titles in a row (at one point during that run notching 41 consecutive wins), Lyon finished second in 2020-21, and that made them very, very angry. They went nearly perfect in the league in 2021-22 (21 wins, 1 draw) and waltzed back to the top of Europe as well.

This season hasn’t been quite as perfect however, so perhaps there is a weakness to this Death Star. They lost one game so far in the league (*shock*) but more importantly, finished only second to Arsenal in their Champions League group, winning just three of the six games. Arsenal beat them 5-1, even (though Lyon were somewhat understrength at the time)! Had Lyon finished first, we could’ve avoided them of course.

But make no mistake, this team is stacked from top to bottom with current, past, and future legends of the game. Goalkeeper Christiane Endler is arguably the best in the game. Defender Wendie Renard is an institution just to herself. Their midfield is good enough for two all-star teams (Amandine Henry, Dzsenifer Marozsán, Catarina Macario, Lindsey Horan, Daniëlle van de Donk, etc). And Eugénie Le Sommer and the somehow still just 27-year-old Ada Hegerberg score goals as naturally as normal people take breaths. (Though it’s Horan who leads the team in scoring this season, with up-and-coming Melvine Malard, pictured at the top, leading the way in Europe.) Young player-turned-academy-manager-turned-senior-manager Sonia Bompastor has tasted defeat just 5 times in 70 games in charge.

So yeah. They’re ridiculous. And they’re almost all fit. Henry and Macario are the two major absentees, with Hegerberg the only real question mark, coming off of a six-month injury absence.

Chelsea Women Press Conference Ahead of Their Womens Champions League Match Against Olympique Lyonnais Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea team news: Of course, if Lyon are the Death Star, we can perhaps style ourselves as Starkiller Base, forged in a tougher league than the two-team French competition, and just as stacked as any of the best outfits around Europe.

And of course we have Emma Hayes!

Hayes made some questionable decisions for the League Cup final that we lost disappointingly to Arsenal (on a very, very cold day at Selhurst Park, I might add on a personal note) — proving that she’s human after all. But like the best humans, she learns from her mistakes. We had gone 21 unbeaten prior to that game (19 wins), and are now working on a three-match winning run, including an easy 3-1 triumph against Reading in the FA Cup over the weekend. Sam Kerr and Lauren James both got the day off, while Guro Reiten and Melanie Leupolz played only 65 and 10 minutes, respectively.

Unfortunately, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder remain unavailable, though the latter has traveled with the team.

Still, Hayes isn’t scared. Quite the opposite in fact.

“Playing OL is a wonderful opportunity for us. We respect their experience as former winners over several years. We know they’re an experienced team, but I’m interested in my own team imposing themselves on the game.

“This is over two legs. Tomorrow for both teams will be about understanding each other a little bit better. But we’re ready.

“We knew when the draw was made it didn’t matter who we got. At this stage these are the top teams in Europe. We’re prepared, we’re ready, no matter the opponent. We’ve been waiting ever since the draw was made and we’re looking forward to it. [We] are ready for whatever game is presented to us tomorrow.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC

Clear eyes. Full hearts.

Previously: We’ve played Lyon twice before, in the 2018-19 semifinals of this competition. We lost the away leg then, 2-1 (Erin Cuthbert with the goal for us after Kirby missed a penalty earlier), but could not quite turn it around in the home leg, settling for a 1-1 draw (Ji So-yun on target). It’s fair to say that both teams have gotten better since, though quite a few players remain from that tie — including Kadeisha Buchanan, who was on the Lyon bench at the time.

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