Stamford Bridge is the venue as Chelsea Women and Barcelona Femeni go head-to-head in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League semi-final tie on Saturday.
After finishing top of Group A with a flawless record of five wins and a draw, and an intimidating +18 goal difference, Chelsea ousted reigning champions Lyon in the quarter-finals.
Emma Hayes’ side won the first leg 1-0 in France but lost 2-1 at home before overcoming the record-time winners on penalties to reach the semi-finals for the second time in three years.
The Blues now go up against a Barcelona side that denied them continental glory in 2020/21, dismantling them 4-0 in the grand final in Gothenburg.
Like Chelsea, Jonatan Giraldez’s team picked up five wins in the group stages to finish top of Group D before thrashing Roma in the quarter-finals 6-1 on aggregate.
Since they’re already on the verge of lifting a fourth successive Primeira Liga Feminina title, Barcelona will touch down in London confident of laying the foundation for the third straight appearance in the Champions League final.
Since squeezing past Lyon in the Champions League, Chelsea have won back-to-back domestic fixtures against Aston Villa ‘to nil’ in the Women’s Super League and FA Cup, respectively.
The overwhelming 3-0 victory at Bescot Stadium saw the Blues stay within touching distance of league leaders Manchester United, with four points separating the sides and Hayes’ team boasting two games in hand.
But while winning the WSL for a fourth consecutive year looks well within reach, Chelsea would probably trade domestic glory for a coveted Champions League success.
As outsiders in this tie, the London outfit must make a standout result on home turf to increase their chances of qualifying for the final, which seems more than attainable.
Before losing to Lyon, Chelsea had won 12 competitive home matches in a row, including ten multi-goal margin triumphs, highlighting the potential for upsetting the odds at the weekend.
Barcelona enjoyed another successful weekend in their domestic championship, trouncing Atletico Madrid 4-0 at home to move 13 points clear at the summit.
That was their 14th straight victory in all competitions and a third multi-goal margin win on the trot, emphasising the level of confidence streaming through their veins ahead of this trip.
That success against Atletico was Barcelona’s 60th consecutive triumph in Liga F.
Giraldez’s ladies have won their last eight away matches in all competitions without conceding, notably netting at least three goals on six occasions.
But if it’s any comfort for Chelsea, Barcelona’s only defeat on the road this season came in the Champions League group stages, going down 3-1 at Bayern Munich in December.
Marquee forward Geyse Ferreira, who will represent Brazil at the 2023 World Cup, scored the only goal for his side in Germany, and she will require special attention on Saturday.
Chelsea are still without Fran Kirby, but Pernille Harder rejoined the squad in their FA Cup semi-final victory against Villa last weekend.
Millie Bright hasn’t played a game since the quarter-final first leg against Lyon and had to withdraw from the England squad earlier this month.
Another centre-back, Kadeisha Buchanan, has also been dealing with an injury and won’t make the matchday squad.
However, Claudia Pina has returned after being absent for the past month.
Mariona Caldentey came off the bench in last weekend’s Liga F victory over Atletico, marking her return to action after being sidelined since February.
Cheslea potential starting line-up:
(4-1-2-3): Ann-Katrin Berger; Eve Perisset, Maren Mjelde, Magdalena Eriksson, Jessica Carter; Erin Cuthbert; Melanie Leupolz, Guro Reiten; Lauren James, Niamh Charles, Sam Kerr.
Barcelona potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Sandra Panos; Lucy Bronze, Paredes, Maria Pilar Leon, Fridolina Rolfo; Aitana Bonmati, Keira Walsh, Patricia Guijarro; Caroline Graham Hansen, Geyse Ferreira, Salma Paralluelo.
We Say: Chelsea 1-2 Barcelona
Any other side would probably not stand a chance against Barcelona, but we back Chelsea to give the Spanish powerhouse a run for their money and trouble the scoresheet.
However, the visitors should walk away from London with a first-leg win in the bag.
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