Some proper footballing action for you during this international break as the UEFA Women’s Champions League Round of 16 gets underway today. After beating Bayern Munich in the previous round, Chelsea take on FC Rosengård, who finished second in the Swedish league but have since strengthened by signing several legendary veterans, such as Germany’s Anja Mittag and Sweden’s Caroline Seger.
On paper, this might be an easier match-up for the Blues, but that doesn’t count for anything once the whistle blows. Chelsea have never advanced past this round of the competition; this is a fantastic chance to do so.
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 19:05 GMT (2:05pm EST)
Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston-upon-Thames, England — online tickets will go off sale at 16:00, but walk-ups will be available starting at 17:30. £6 gets you in, or half that if you’re super young or super old; that’s value right there!
Forecast: Mostly cloudy, a brisk 10°C (50°F), Wind speed 3 m/s and 90% humidity
On TV/Streaming: Chelsea TV will stream the match live — previous rounds were shown for free both on the website as well as YouTube.
Opposition Analysis: Malin Levenstad, a former player and the youngest manager in the Swedish top flight, took the reins back in September following the dismissal of Jack Majgaard Jensen. Since then however, Rosengård have struggled, picking up just two wins in their least eight league matches (albeit only one loss). Their newest midfield signing has already gone down with injury, too, just four days after her arrival. Things have not been pretty for the Swedish side, who currently sit second in the Damallsvenskan, six points off the pace of defending champions Linköpings FC.
However, Rosengård, formerly known as Malmö FF, have been going strong in Europe, easily dispatching Romanian champions Olimpia Cluj in the previous round. Rosengård have had better success than Chelsea in this competition, historically, having reached the quarter-finals in five of the last six years, but never going past that stage in all that time. A big reason why this might be the year that changes is the inclusion of a new name on their team sheet that Chelsea know all too well. Anja Mittag, who Chelsea had faced each time they were bounced out of this competition by Wolfsburg, is the first player to reach fifty goals in the Women’s UCL, and will undoubtedly be a handful.
In Mittag’s words though, Chelsea are the favorites to go through. “Chelsea are a really hard team to meet and one of the toughest opponents we could have got in the whole draw,” she told BBC Sport, adding, “We are the underdog. Chelsea have great players... We will need a really good day to get something against them but we will try our best. To get through would be a huge achievement for us.”
Expected Lineup and Prediction: Given the step back that Chelsea seemed to take against Bristol City at the weekend, I would expect Emma Hayes to do a fair bit of rotating in this one. Crystal Dunn seems undroppable to me, as does Karen Carney, whose determination and perseverance is responsible for the win on Saturday. Eni Aluko has been outstanding since her return to the squad and it would be hard to start her on the bench. The back line tandem of Magdalena Eriksson and Gilly Flaherty have been very solid throughout, as has the midfield pairing of Maren Mjelde and Katie Chapman. The only questions then seem to be who starts as the right-sided center back, who takes up the opposite wing-back slot across from Dunn, and who deserves that final opening in the front three. My guesses are Millie Bright, Hannah Blundell, and Fran Kirby, but feel free to chime in with your picks and thoughts in the comments below.
Chelsea desperately need to take a lead to Sweden for the second leg and stave off any momentum loss from the weekend’s hard-fought, narrow, last-minute victory. Hayes will likely set up aggressively as a result, and I think the squad has the talent to win out, though we may concede a goal in the process.
Predicted Scoreline: 3-1
If Chelsea Ladies want to reach the next level, as is the stated goal for the season, this is a big first step.
COME ON, CHELSEA!