Emma Hayes described the expansion of the Women’s Champions League next season as brilliant, saying that the extra place for an English club would “add congratulations to our league” as it prepared Chelsea to play Atlético Madrid in the last 16. end of leg on Wednesday.
After the playoffs, the tournament itself currently starts with 32 teams, but starting next season, two qualifying rounds will be followed by a group stage of 16. England’s status as one of the top six countries in Europe means that a third club from the Women’s Super League will compete in the tournament for the first time. A maximum of one of these clubs will go directly to the group stage.
On Wednesday, Manchester City play at home to Fiorentina in the first leg of the round of 16, before Chelsea host Atlético at Kingsmeadow. Hayes, a staunch supporter of expansion, missed qualifying for last season’s tournament after Chelsea finished third in the 2018-19 season and says the change is important for the growth of the English game.
“This is brilliant,” he said. “This is the step that everyone has worked for. I’m happy to think that three teams from England will qualify, I think that will add even more praise to our league and keep the right amount of investment in the clubs. “
Chelsea and England center-back Millie Bright welcomes the change of format. “It shows that we are doing what we need to do to grow the game and it is definitely exciting to have groups,” he said. “I am very happy that the first three are entering now; We definitely have the quality at the WSL to add that third team. It is exciting, it makes it more intense and I am proud of women’s football for the journey we have undertaken ”.
Chelsea have reached the semi-finals twice, losing to Wolfsburg in 2018 and Lyon in 2019, and Bright believes that with their signings, particularly European player of the year Pernille Harder, they are ready to take the next step.
“We have all the ingredients,” he said. “We just have to put the words into action now and get the job done. They have a lot of experience in the Champions League, especially Pernille. You learn from those players. That’s the most, the experience we didn’t have. “
Bright and Hayes, however, don’t look too far into the future. “Everybody in Europe is probably loving the kind of pressure that is being put on Chelsea … while there is no talk of Manchester City,” said Hayes, who cautioned against complacency against Atlético. “So they knock out Man City two years in a row? They have qualities. They are a great cup side “
City manager Gareth Taylor agreed that the focus on Chelsea had lifted the pressure on City in the competition. “But we put ourselves under pressure,” he said. “When you work or play for a big club like City, we are expected to be there and we want to be there.”
Fiorentina lost 6-0 on aggregate to Arsenal in the last 32 games of last season and are fighting domestically. He is fifth in Serie A, 16 points behind the Champions League standings. City, like Chelsea, have added experience: three-time Champions League winner Lucy Bronze, another winner Alex Greenwood and World Cup champions Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle.
“I think we are good enough to win,” Taylor said. “There has been a lot of change. Whatever game we go out to play, we go out to win, we go out to impose our game on the rival. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I don’t think the tie is over ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism