Emma Hayes urges Chelsea to secure Champions League knockout qualification
Emma Hayes has reiterated Chelsea’s desire to win the Women’s Champions League and urged her side to seal progression into the knockout phase with victory at Real Madrid on Thursday.
The current English champions made the final of Europe’s elite competition in 2021 but suffered a surprise group-stage exit last season.
It is a different story this time around, with a 100 per cent record after three Group A games giving Chelsea the chance to book their place in the last eight with three points at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.
“The Champions League is the goal every year,” Hayes said at a press conference in Madrid.
“What’s different is tomorrow we’re in a position to qualify. We weren’t this time last year. Our objectives are always to win every trophy we compete for and this year is no different.
“It is a tough group, so for us just to win (is the aim) and put ourselves in the best position possible.”
Another victory on Thursday would be a 12th in a row for Chelsea but Hayes knows keeping possession will be key.
She added: “Ultimately we are here to win and to talk about the threats of the opponent and give away my game plan, I don’t want to do.
“What I will say is I think as a team the patience in possession and ability to threaten, especially in wide spaces, I know is part of their strength but for us we need to focus on our experience, what we’ve done in European competition.
“That is a massive pitch out there and in order to get a result out here we need to keep the ball very well because they do so we absolutely have to tomorrow.”
A key battle will be between Scotland internationals Erin Cuthbert and Madrid’s summer signing Caroline Weir.
Cuthbert watched from the bench on Saturday as Chelsea hit eight past Leicester but will be eager to make an impact in Spain after scoring in each of her three matches in November.
“For us it would be really significant (to qualify early). Given the disappointment last year, we’re not looking ahead about how far we are going to get in the competition. First and foremost, the most important thing is to qualify,” Cuthbert insisted.
“I know Caroline Weir very, very well from the national team. I know the quality she has. On her game she is a real top player so we’re going to have to do well to stop her, like a lot of their team.”
Hayes ended the press conference with a good luck message for England, who play France on Saturday in Qatar for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
“To Gareth (Southgate) and the boys, we know the whole country will be tuning in,” the Chelsea manager added.
“I am really, really enjoying the way the team is playing. Hopefully we get the opportunity to progress. I am sure the way we are playing, I don’t see any reason why not.”
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