The UEFA Women’s Champions League beings in earnest this week, as the first legs of the Round of 32 knockout phase are held today and tomorrow, with the second legs to follow next week. Unlike the men’s version, the women’s competition goes old school, dispensing with the group stage in the Champions League proper (they do have groups, but for the qualifiers instead).
Next up for the Blues, it's Bayern Munich on Wednesday...— Chelsea Ladies FC (@ChelseaLFC) October 2, 2017
Who's going? pic.twitter.com/Zh5hZoKIFB
This is Chelsea’s third straight season in European competition, but they’ve yet to advance past the Round of 16, ousted by perennial favorites Wolfsburg in each of the last two years. Chelsea have made several signings over the last couple seasons to get past this hurdle and for what it’s worth, last year’s quarterfinalists Bayern deemed Chelsea just about their toughest possible draw for this round.
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 4 at 7:05 PM BST (2:05 PM EST)
Venue: Kingsmeadow Stadium, Kingston upon Thames, England
Forecast: Classic London weather: partly cloudy, a nippy 58°F/14°C around kick-off, wind: 5 m/s NE, humidity: 67%
Notable Team News: Deanna Cooper and Jade Bailey are still missing for the Blues through long-term injuries, but fortunately there are no other issues to mention at this point. After missing the weekend trip to Sunderland through illness, manager Emma Hayes will be back in the dugout as she confirmed on Twitter.
Advised by the doctor not to travel to the game this weekend due to a bug but will be back in the dugout Wednesday. Come on you blues— Emma Hayes MBE (@emmahayes1) September 30, 2017
Bayern have strengthen the squad that finished second in the German league last season, adding notable names in Jill Roord, Mandy Islacker, and Lineth Beerensteyn. Islacker is an experienced German with an outstanding goalscoring record. Roord and Beerensteyn are part of a Dutch golden generation, both aged just twenty and already winners at youth and top levels. As a midfielder, Roord’s 52 goals in 90 appearances for FC Twente over the last four seasons speaks volumes about her ability, though she has yet to open her account for the German giants. Bayern were able to secure 3-0, 2-0, and 4-0 victories in their opening three matches of the season, and so enter the European competition with great confidence. Though they may return to the side this week, Jovana Damnjanovic, Sydney Lohmann, Viktoria Schnaderbeck weren’t available for their last match; neither were long-term absentees Anna Gerhardt and Lena Lotzen.
Expected Lineup and Prediction: Unfortunately, I was not able to watch the last match for the Ladies, as it overlapped with the men’s game against Manchester City and was thus not televised nor streamed, and Chelsea TV have still not produced even a minimal highlights package on their website. Regardless, the women in blue were once again dominant against opposition that didn’t seem to be in their echelon, putting up six goals and keeping a clean sheet at Sunderland. It was an impressive performance from the Ladies and despite the midweek match in Europe, featured a side which rotated just three players. Millie Bright got the start at the right-sided center half, and could have done enough to retain it, as she reportedly looked as solid as ever and got forward with as much intensity as Maria Thorisdottir, nearly bagging a goal. Ji So-Yun also stepped into the starting lineup, and bagged a goal and two assists in her 90 minutes, so it will be interesting to see if she can keep Drew Spence on the bench this time around. Most surprising was the dropping of Hannah Blundell, whose spot was taken by Ramona Bachmann, as Karen Carney filled in at right wingback. I’m confident that change won’t stick, however, as keeping our shape and defending out wide will be far more important than breaking down an obstinate opponent for this one. Bayern will be tough competition of course, having won back-to-back league titles in 2015 and 2016, and Chelsea have gone out twice to German opposition in this tournament. Chelsea are at home, so I’d expect Hayes to try and get the Blues out there on the front foot.
Predicted Scoreline: 3-1