Chelsea and Emma Hayes have had to wait for nearly two years for another shot at Barcelona and now here it is. The team that embarrassed us in the 2021-22 Champions League final, 4-0, with all goals coming in the first 36 minutes. Now, Barcelona come to Stamford Bridge for the first of a two-legged semifinal.
While Hayes and Chelsea were surely eager for another shot at the Catalan giants, the timing couldn’t be worse from an injury standpoint. Millie Bright, who has been in the best form of her life for club and country, is ailing with a knee problem and will miss the match. Kadeisha Buchanan, the former Lyon center back who joined the Blues in the summer, is out too.
That’s not all.
Fran Kirby has also not played since early February, and Pernille Harder just joined team training after being out since picking up an injury while on international duty in November. Harder’s return to training is a positive, but it’s doubtful she’s fit enough to put in a shift versus one of the best teams in the world.
The last time we played Barcelona, our fullbacks were ran ragged. This year, the fullback position remains unsettled, with new signing Eve Perisset struggling to perform in the team. It’s likely that Chelsea will not only have to face Barcelona with question marks in key outside areas again, but also in central defense, where Magdalena Eriksson and Maren Mjelde will be the likely partnership. Both are solid, and Magda put in a vintage performance versus Aston Villa, but neither have the foot speed to recover, and will have to get their positioning spot on all match to avoid conceding clean looks at goal.
Date / Time: Saturday, April 22, 2023, 12.30 BST; 7:30am EDT; 5:00pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, UK
Referee: Jana Adámková
On TV: CBS Sports Golazo Network (US)
Streaming: DAZN (YouTube, everywhere)
This was certainly not the way anyone wanted to head into a rematch with Barcelona, but here we are. Stranger things have happened on football pitches, and Chelsea will need to add to those strange things if we are to get a result, especially since Barcelona’s injury situation is headed in an opposite direction. Many of their key players are back in the squad returning from injuries (though Alexia Putellas won’t feature at Stamford Bridge).
Barcelona were tested by Roma in the quarterfinal round, but eventually won comfortably. In the group stages, Bayern Munich defeated them 3-1 in early December, so it’s not impossible. And they’ll be without superstar Putellas, who’s recovering from an ACL. However, they have had ample time to figure out how to be devastating without her, and across all competitions they’ve been just that.
Still, Chelsea must find a way to get a result at the Bridge, and then look for a miracle away, at a packed Camp Nou, to shock the world.
It’s never too late for prayer.