Women’s Champions League: Chelsea face daunting task as Alexia Putellas gears up for Barcelona return

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

It is hard to see Thursday night’s clash with Barcelona at the Nou Camp as anything other than Chelsea’s most difficult match in more than a decade under Emma Hayes.

With Hayes at the helm, the Blues have won five WSL titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and a Community Shield. Never have they felt quite as heavy underdogs as they do ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg in Spain.

Barcelona hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea are still in the tie, but their chances of reaching a second final in three years appear wafer thin.

Barca have won every home match they have played since October 2018. Chelsea lost 4-0 to the Catalans in the 2021 Champions League Final, and what makes their task tonight even more daunting is the potential long-awaited return of Alexia Putellas.

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner is in the Barca squad, and could feature for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury on the eve of the Euros last summer.

Chelsea trio Millie Bright, Katerina Svitkova and Kadeisha Buchanan have not travelled to Spain, while Fran Kirby is also unavailable, although she is with the squad.

More than 65,000 tickets have been sold for the match, although that could increase following the news of the return of midfielder Putellas.

The winners face a final against either Arsenal or Wolfsburg, who are locked at 2-2 after their first leg and meet again at Emirates Stadium on Monday.

Back in action:  Alexia Putellas is ready to return to action (Getty Images)
Back in action: Alexia Putellas is ready to return to action (Getty Images)

“At 1-0 there is no doubt, with their history here, we have to be at our very best,” said Hayes. “I have said it time and time again, we have a dressing room of players that want to be in this position. We will give it everything we have got.

“Nobody denies they are a fabulous team with an amazing history, particularly here. But this is a strength of our team. We are built to cope with the challenges. We like to suffer. We’re as prepared as we possibly can be.”