‘Everybody would expect us to be favourites,’ says Emma Hayes as Chelsea prepare to host Real Madrid

The penultimate group stage matchday of the 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Champions League will see Chelsea welcome Real Madrid to Stamford Bridge, having been previously held to a controversial draw by las Blancas in their last meeting.

The clash comes just days after Emma Hayes’ Chelsea recorded an impressive victory over Manchester United in SW6, with a Lauren James hat-trick proving to be enough to see off the Red Devils on Sunday.

Emma Hayes spoke in her post-match press conference about her delight with the performance, and as she turned her attention to preview Real Madrid on Tuesday, she echoed those views again.

‘We’re very excited to build on the performance of the weekend, and make Stamford Bridge a bigger home for us,’ she told reporters at the club’s Cobham Training Ground. Despite welcoming more than 20,000 fans on Sunday, the attendance for the upcoming UEFA Women’s Champions League fixture will be capped at a mere 5,000 as part of the club’s growth and sustainability program.

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Hayes explained that ‘everybody is available to face Real Madrid, adding that ‘we’ll know a little bit more closer to kickoff – but there’s no new injuries.’

With Millie Bright likely to be absent until after the international break as she continues her recovery from injury, Erin Cuthbert will wear the captain’s armband again on Wednesday. ‘It’s always an honour, said Cuthbert, appearing alongside Hayes during the press conference, ‘but nothing about me changes whether I’ve got the armband on or not. I’m still the same person and I’ll still conduct myself the same way.’

Hayes was keen to emphasise the importance of playing at home in such a high-profile fixture, adding that ‘we’ve played the opponent before and we know their qualities. For us, we have to keep building on the qualities that we’ve set for ourselves… to focus on ourselves is the key.’

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The 47-year-old explained that ‘I think everybody would expect us to be favourites going into the game – however it’s Real Madrid, they’ve a quality squad and a lot of internationals.’

For Cuthbert though, it’s an opportunity she relishes. ‘When you’re a young kid, you want to be playing at Stamford Bridge under the lights, playing against a top team in Europe – so I’m really excited by it, but it’s one that’s a great challenge,’ she told reporters.

‘We’ll be looking to win tomorrow night, but we know it comes with a process and how we started on Sunday is how we’ll be looking to start tomorrow night.’