Hayes hopes big Chelsea crowd can send Chelsea to UCL final

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said on Friday that she hopes the large crowd headed to Stamford Bridge will help her team beat Barcelona in the second leg of the Women’s Champions League semifinal on Saturday.

After securing a 1-0 victory in the first leg at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium last week, Chelsea will welcome a near-sell-out crowd for the second leg against the Catalan club, with Hayes’ side hoping to book their place in their second Champions League final.

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It has been reported that Chelsea need to sell around 500 more tickets to fill the 40,000-capacity Stamford Bridge for the blockbuster match.

“We’re ready, we want to be in this position. I look forward to the crowd helping us because we’re going to need them,” Hayes told a news conference on Friday.

“I look forward to seeing the fans tomorrow. Of course, I’m delighted [about playing in front of a large crowd] because our girls deserve the opportunity, but for me, this is one more step in the right direction of growing the women’s game.”

It will be Hayes’ last game at the iconic stadium before she departs the club after 12 years to become the new head coach of the United States women’s national team, and the Champions League is the one trophy she has not won during her tenure with the club.

However, Hayes said that this does not give her side any added momentum heading into the fixture.

“I think our players play for our badge; they play for their family, for each other; I’m part of that; I’m in a team; it’s not me, it’s us. These players play at this football club to play in every game for Chelsea, not just the one tomorrow.”

Hayes admitted she is looking forward to the clash but added that she is not sure what to expect from Barça after their first-leg defeat, which marked the first time the reigning European champions had been beaten at home in five seasons.

“The truth is I don’t know,” Hayes said. “All I can do is prepare the team for the possibilities. We can prepare for some of the tactical details, but we have to play our game, too. Our game is not Barcelona’s game, and we’re not trying to be Barcelona; nobody is Barcelona.

“But that doesn’t mean you can’t win; it just means you have to play to your best strengths and recognise that no matter what Barcelona will do, they will pull anything apart.

“Do I expect changes tactically? Maybe personnel? Yeah, sure, 100%.”

After the first leg, Hayes said hosting the crucial clash in front of a sell-out crowd is “essential” to boosting their chances of reaching the final once again. Chelsea lost the 2021 final 4-0 to Barça in Gothenburg.

“I think it’s essential,” Hayes said. “Our girls deserve to play in front of a full house to give ourselves the best possible chance because we are going to need them. Barcelona will throw absolutely everything at us.”

Chelsea have never sold out the 40,000-seater stadium in the Women’s Super League (WSL) but came close when they hosted 32,970 fans for their 3-1 victory over title rivals Arsenal in March.

The record attendance for a women’s football match stands at 91,648 when Barça hosted Wolfsburg at Spotify Camp Nou in April 2022 for the Champions League semifinal.

Arsenal hold the attendance record in England after 60,160 fans witnessed the north London club defeat Manchester United 3-1 at Emirates Stadium in February. This beat the former record, also held by Arsenal for their 4-1 win over Chelsea in December that drew a crowd of 59,042.

If Chelsea get past the reigning European champions on Saturday, they could face either Paris Saint-Germain or Lyon in the final in Bilbao next month.