A Defeat through Barcelona over again within the Champions League will, within the speedy aftermath, really feel like a blow for Chelsea and their enthusiasts. However, a gritty efficiency and a 1-0 loss by the hands of the crew such a lot of imagine the most efficient in Europe will have to fill Chelsea with a lot of encouragement for the second one leg on the Camp Nou on Thursday.
It is widely recognized that that is the only identify Emma Hayes and her crew desperately want, the overall lacking piece of their trophy cupboard. They have come shut: dropping 4-0 to Barcelona within the 2021 last, and the heartbreak of that day lives lengthy within the reminiscence.
Those emotions can have felt even keener when Caroline Graham Hansen strode ahead within the fourth minute to unharness a luxurious end previous Ann-Katrin Berger. A way of deja-vu to that last when the Blues conceded within the first minute after which fell aside.
This time, that disintegration didn’t occur on Saturday because the English champions regrouped and defended resolutely regardless of intense drive from the guests. That is why it is going to be a very powerful for Hayes to emphasise the positives of his efficiency. Whether it’s the simple development of particular person gamers, similar to Jess Carter or Niamh Charles, or the resilience of the back-three, makeshift in its nature because of accidents to Kadeisha Buchanan and Millie Bright, there might be masses to attract on over the following couple of days.
It has been greater than 700 days since that last and Chelsea had been gathering a squad to take at the problem and in any case convey the trophy again to London. The construction of this aspect, the only Hayes has named the “best squad she’s ever had” used to be transparent to peer.
Carter is the epitome of this development. Two years in the past, the younger England defender had a torrid time at that last in Gothenburg with a efficiency that brought about many onlookers to name her attributes into query.
Thrown into the backline that day at simply 23 years previous, she struggled with Barcelona’s tempo, crushed over and over through a ruthless assault. She has, on the other hand, grew to become her fortunes round and installed a standout show this time round, arguably one in every of Chelsea’s easiest gamers. Her energy and talent to snuff out unhealthy scenarios had been obvious all season and she or he handled virtually the whole lot that got here her approach; confronted with Graham Hansen and Lucy Bronze as they marauded up the correct flank.
Another facet of Chelsea’s development this season has been their skill to handle adversity. Injury issues have loomed over them with the 2 mainstays in their protection in Bright and Buchanan lacking, and long-term absentees within the type of Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder.
With Barcelona coming to the city, their defensive problems can have been of specific worry. The captain Magdalena Eriksson has spent a significant portion of this yr at the bench as she struggles to rediscover the type of final season. The similar can also be stated of Maren Mjelde who has discovered her game-time restricted since coming back from damage, enjoying a sideline function till that dramatic overdue penalty towards Lyon.
But what they lack in time at the grass, they greater than make up for with enjoy having been stalwarts of the aspect for a few years. It will have gave the impression a rather unnatural pairing after they took to the sector within the FA Cup semi-final towards Aston Villa final week, however their blended defensive nous is clear. They is probably not blessed with the rate they as soon as had however remained alert, setting up restoration runs and tackles that may have reminded enthusiasts of after they first arrived on the membership.
Chelsea will want to name on all this once more in 5 days’ time. A raucous Camp Nou will provide a distinct prospect to Stamford Bridge with greater than 50,000 enthusiasts anticipated. Barcelona stay the favorites to growth however Hayes and her aspect might be assured they’ve it in them to hold at the go back and forth to Eindhoven in June.