Emma Hayes: Chelsea cautious against Barcelona side that ‘can hurt you in so many different ways’

As the eyes of the world focus in on SW6 ahead of the second leg of the 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals, Chelsea’s Emma Hayes cut a cautious figure when she addressed the media on Friday afternoon.

Her side executed the game plan to perfection at the Estadi Olïmpic Lluis Companys last weekend, heading back to Stamford Bridge with a one-goal aggregate advantage that could prove to be pivotal against the reigning champions, Barcelona.

But Hayes was keen not to get ahead of herself, and took the opportunity to praise the Blaugrana as ‘the best team in the world, I’ve said it a million times.’

‘They know how to be in this position and no matter what they throw at us, whether that’s bringing a false nine, overloading the left-hand side, accessing the pivot or drawing us out of position – Barcelona can hurt you in so many different ways.’

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Speaking on how Chelsea will approach this mammoth second leg, which will see Stamford Bridge host a sellout crowd for a women’s match for the first time ever, Hayes explained that ‘we have to be so mindful that you can’t switch off for one single second. This is a game that is played in the head first and foremost and we know we have to be perfect to be able to progress.’

With her departure pending at the end of the season, Hayes was quick to rubbish claims that there is an added pressure on her players to perform and see her out on a high. Should they reach the final in Bilbao on May 25, it would come as Hayes’ last match in charge of the Blues before taking the reigns of the United States Women’s National Team.

‘I think our players play for our badge, their families, for each other. I’m part of that. I’m in a team. It’s not me it’s we, it’s us. These players play at this football club in every game for Chelsea.’