Chelsea in control of group after Ingle and Cuthbert sink Real Madrid | Football

Erin Cuthbert had said: “People say I only score bangers and it’s actually annoying – I want to score tap‑ins as well, I want to be known as a goalscorer,” after her stunning strike against Tottenham on Sunday. However the Scottish forward, who last week signed a new contract with Chelsea, fired in from wide to ensure the Blues extended their lead at the top of Group A in the Women’s Champions League with a 2-0 defeat of Real Madrid – and enhanced her reputation for stylish goals.

“She was outstanding,” said Emma Hayes. “I don’t think there was a blade of grass she didn’t cover. There was a tenacity to her performance that we’ve all come to expect.”

There were three changes to the Chelsea side that beat Tottenham 3-0 on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, with Niamh Charles on in place of France’s Ève Périssett, Canada’s Olympic gold-medal winner Jessie Fleming shifted to the bench to make way for Fran Kirby, and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd favoured over Lauren James.

The biggest blow came on Tuesday, though, with the news that the influential forward Pernille Harder had undergone surgery following a hamstring injury picked up on international duty.

For Real, Athenea del Castillo – the goalscorer in their 1-0 away win at Sporting Huelva on Saturday – was on the bench, Misa Rodríguez returned in goal in place of France’s Méline Gérard, while Maite Oroz, Freja Olofsson, Naomie Feller and Esther González all started after sitting out at the weekend.

In Hayes’s first game at Kingsmeadow after her emergency hysterectomy following a lengthy struggle with endometriosis, Chelsea started brightly, and – after some nice work from Sam Kerr – Kirby collected and forced a save from Rodríguez in the fourth minute.

Sophie Ingle heads home to give Chelsea the lead over Real Madrid.

Sophie Ingle heads home to give Chelsea the lead after Erin Cuthbert’s corner was flicked on by Millie Bright. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

Despite the quick start, there was little to separate the two sides, neither of which had conceded a goal in Group A. Victory would give Chelsea a chance to stretch five points clear of Real and Paris Saint-Germain at the group’s midway point, while the Albanian side Vllaznia sit bottom, without a goal or a point, after a 5-0 defeat against PSG in the early kick‑off. But despite the chance to really take control of the group, Hayes’s side struggled to create clear goalscoring opportunities.

The Real Madrid manager, Alberto Toril, said before kick-off that his team were “going to fight and make life difficult” and they did just that, stifling service to Kerr, Kirby and the subdued Rytting Kaneryd. The latter was substituted in place of James, while Kirby made way for Fleming around the hour as Hayes attempted to inject some energy into an increasingly soul-sucking half of football.

Chelsea were forced to rely on a set‑piece to break through in the 68th minute, with Cuthbert’s corner from the right headed on at the near post by Millie Bright and turned in by the head of Ingle at the back. It was a rocket the crowd and players sorely needed.

The first goal was swiftly followed by the second and it was also Cuthbert’s second screamer in two games. Her cross-cum-shot flew into the net from the right to give her team a two-goal cushion.

“That’s a secret,” Cuthbert said of whether she meant it. “I meant to fire it across the goal and see what happens. It was lucky it came off my boot quite nicely and went over the keeper’s head and in.”

Toril, though, was happy with the progress of his team. “It was a very good game for both teams,” he said. We were quite a similar level, we are a young team, we were against a team that is very mature. We are happy and we were good.”

In the end it was simple for Chelsea, but the game was far from pretty. That is what is so effective about Hayes’s side: regardless of how they play or how long it takes, they get results.

Chelsea go top of WSL with Spurs win as Kerr shines at packed Stamford Bridge | Women’s Super League

With a chance to go top of the Women’s Super League table for the first time this season following Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat of Arsenal, Emma Hayes back in the dugout, and Stamford Bridge bouncing, it has been a good weekend for Chelsea. And a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Tottenham ensured the team leapfrogged United and Arsenal, which was the cherry on top.

Since a shock opening-day defeat against Liverpool, Chelsea have cruised to the summit and, while performances have not quite had last year’s swagger, they have been brutally efficient. It was no different at Stamford Bridge, which was scheduled to host the sellout opening game of the season against West Ham before that match was postponed following the death of the Queen and tickets transferred to this fixture.

Hayes said she would “like to be here more” and that the “audiences are here for maybe eight to 12 games a year” when asked about bringing her team back to Stamford Bridge. “We all know that [there is a] conundrum in the women’s game around what we do,” she said. “From small stadia, is there a medium-term plan to go to medium-size stadiums before eventually everyone comes home to the large stadium? I don’t know, but I’m absolutely certain we’re all outgrowing our small stadiums. The players want to play here more but I really believe we have to increase the overall pricing structure if we’re to play more in these places, because there is a cost implication to it.”

The visiting north London side, contending with a number of injuries, began more brightly but it took just 12 minutes for Chelsea to quash hopes of an upset. The centre-back Millie Bright, deep in her own half, lofted the ball towards Sam Kerr and the dynamic Australian forward shrugged off the challenge of Shelina Zadorsky before firing coolly past Tinja-Riikka Korpela.

It was a welcome sight for Hayes, who was glued to the edge of her technical area for the duration having missed Chelsea’s preceding six games in all competitions while she recovered from an emergency hysterectomy after a long battle with endometriosis.

“First half I felt fine, second half my back was killing me, when it got cold, but I feel like I hadn’t been away,” Hayes said. “Someone asked me earlier how many games of football I’ve coached in my career and I couldn’t tell you, but it’d be over 1,000 I suspect. It just felt like I was going back out to my family and I felt like a spectator for the most part and just gave little bits of information as and when necessary. I really enjoyed it.”

Chelsea had won five games in succession against their London rivals before their trip to Stamford Bridge and outscored them 12 to two. That balance looked unlikely to shift: Spurs have struggled for consistency and they are lacking an out and out striker with Kit Graham injured. Instead, partnering Jess Naz up top was the former Chelsea defensive midfielder Drew Spence who, alongside Ash Neville, is Tottenham’s joint top scorer with three goals.

“In terms of the squad depth, some of the challenges we’ve faced over the course of this season is creating a few issues with how many options we’ve got in and around the squad,” the Spurs manager, Rehanne Skinner, said. “Overall, every transfer window we’ve just got to keep evolving the squad so we’re in a more consistent position to compete with these teams and take chances when we get them.”

Chelsea’s second was as stylish as the first, with the ball dropping to Erin Cuthbert on the end of the area and the Scot sending a looping strike dipping down under the crossbar and in.

Less than 10 minutes later the home team had a third, with Guro Reiten stepping up to convert from the spot after Neville clipped the heel of the majestic Lauren James in the box. Chelsea continued their dominance in the second half but struggled to break through the renewed resilience of the Tottenham back line.

Chelsea move three points clear, albeit having played a game more, while Spurs are back to the drawing board having failed again to string together two consecutive league wins this season.

Sam Kerr helps Chelsea end Manchester United’s unbeaten WSL start | Women’s Super League

The gap between Manchester United and Chelsea is closing, but the WSL champions emphasised their continued superiority over United with a hard-earned 3-1 defeat of their title challengers.

It was fitting, somewhat, that the former United starlet Lauren James scored Chelsea’s important second goal in front of a record home crowd of 6,186. James was the talisman of a United team looking to power to the top after being re-formed in 2018, but she spent much of last season on the bench for Chelsea, with Emma Hayes saying she was far from ready for a place in the first team.

James’s goal came four minutes after Sam Kerr had put the first goal past Mary Earps in the league this season. Alessia Russo’s strike helped spark United back to life but they could not find the leveller and Erin Cuthbert’s deflected strike in added time killed things.

Praising James, Chelsea’s general manager, Paul Green, who revealed Hayes would return to the dugout for the team’s game against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge after the international break, said: “We’ve got a hell of a player on our hands, and we just need to keep developing her the right way.”

James said: “It was sweet [scoring against my former club] … Sometimes the fans have booed me here. But I love Chelsea and I’m trying to do my best for them.”

United’s manager, Marc Skinner, said before kick-off that “the great thing about tonight is that we can cause them as many problems as they cause us”. That may have sounded fanciful given United are yet to beat Chelsea, home or away, since they won promotion to the WSL in 2019. Instead, United have now lost five and drawn once, with this fixture last season ending in a bruising 6-1 defeat, but his team are a far grittier beast this season.

At a bitterly cold and rain-swept Leigh Sports Village, where cars queued, barely moving, right up to kick-off to try and squeeze into the car parks that surround the isolated stadium, it was a tightly fought first half, with United edging possession (53%) and the sides having one shot on target apiece.

Chelsea could feel aggrieved to not have been awarded a penalty, with Maya Le Tissier crashing into Guro Reiten’s knee in the box, narrowly missing the ball.

“There was nothing really in it in the first half,” said Skinner. “Second half I felt we were outdone by lapses in concentration and their speed of thought was a little bit quicker than ours, especially at the back. We spoke about their movement, and we need to be better with that.”

Alessia Russo scores
Alessia Russo scores for Manchester United after they had gone two goals down against Chelsea in the second half. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA

On the hour mark came the first shot on target of the second half, and it resulted in Chelsea taking the lead. The usually solid Millie Turner gifted possession to Sophie Ingle and the midfielder found Kerr, who tucked into the bottom corner.

It was quickly followed by the second. Kerr, this time the provider, collected a ball over the top and raced clear on the left before cutting back for James to power in, the 21-year-old sliding to her knees in celebration in front of the United Barmy Army that so worshiped her when she wore red for three years.

United were rocked and the visiting side upped the ante, with Reiten crashing an effort off the post.

The reply came very much against the run of play, but it made the temporarily muted home crowd roar to life. This time it was a Chelsea error. Erin Cuthbert conceded the ball to Ella Toone and the United forward released Russo, who finished coolly past Ann-Katrin Berger.

Quick Guide

WSL roundup


Steph Catley scored
straight from a corner as Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal made it six wins
from six in the WSL against rock-bottom Leicester, with Frida Maanum,
Caitlin Foord and Beth Mead also finding the net. Rachel Daly’s
second-half penalty ended Aston Villa’s three-game losing run and left
Liverpool languishing third bottom with just three points. Danielle
Carter struck twice during Brighton’s 5-4 win at West Ham. The
Seagulls were 3-1 up at the break and 5-2 up with 20 minutes to play only for a late double from Viviane Asseyi to take the game to the
wire, but they held on and took themselves off the
bottom with their first points of the season. And Reading skipper
Emma Mukandi endured a wretched afternoon, scoring two own-goals against visitors Manchester City
before Bunny Shaw’s seventh in six league games wrapped up the

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Lifted by the goal United regained their composure and were threatening, but they could not breach the Chelsea backline again and Cuthbert atoned for her error sending a deflected effort past Earps.

United drop to third, three points behind Chelsea, who have played a game more, while Arsenal moved top after a 4-0 defeat of Leicester City.

Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder hit hat-tricks as Chelsea dismantle Vllaznia | Women’s Champions League

Chelsea found the free-flowing rhythm that has previously eluded defeat of Albanian champions Vllaznia in the Champions League.

Four goals from Sam Kerr, three from Pernille Harder, one from the substitute Katerina Svitkova and four assists from Guro Reiten on her 100th Chelsea appearance, helped the Blues take control of Group A with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain having drawn 0-0 in the earlier fixture.

Kerr has only scored one goal in the WSL this season but general manager Paul Green, again standing in for the absent Emma Hayes, said there has never been a worry about that. “She’s won the golden boot two seasons in a row and we’ve never had any doubts she would score this season,” he said.

Kerr said: “Obviously I’m paid to score goals but I also think I bring a lot to the team when I’m not scoring too, so it’s just about being patient, getting in my groove, and I did tonight and hopefully I can again against Villa [on Sunday].”

Vllaznia were well supported on a crisp evening at Kingsmeadow, with 420 tickets sold officially to travelling fans but far more of London’s Albanian community showing up to watch their team take on the WSL champions.

The home side naturally dominated from the off: Vllaznia are unlikely to trouble either Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid in Group A. At times the Chelsea players were queuing up to punish the Albanian side and although it only took 10 minutes for the home team to take the lead, it felt like they could already have been four or five up.

The opening goal was sublime, Danish forward Harder playing in Kerr and the Australia international lifting it over the goalkeeper Kaylin Conner Williams-Mosier, one of six Americans in the away team’s squad. The floodgates were open, but Vllaznia had fleeting moments of positive play, with Megi Doci, who scored 66 league goals last season and was playing on the left wing, their brightest outlet.

Sam Kerr celebrates her hat-trick goal against Vllaznia with a backflip.
Sam Kerr celebrates her hat-trick goal against Vllaznia with a backflip. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

There was never any doubt which way the game would go though, and Chelsea hit two in two minutes to extend their lead and improve their goal difference in a group that could prove to be tight. First, Reiten breezed past the right-back Aleksandra Popovic and delivered for Kerr who fired in from close range. Then Reiten provided again from the left, this time for Harder to turn in.

Vllaznia had only got past qualifying once in 11 attempts before this season, and the draw delivered the glamour ties many of their players had been dreaming of. Lexie Knox, who played college football alongside the Manchester City forward Khadija Shaw in the US, told Goal that playing against Sam Kerr “would be an honour”.

At times you could be forgiven for thinking the Vllaznia players just wanted to stand back and watch their heroes, but that would be harsh: they just couldn’t keep up. There were two changes at half-time, with Popovic one of those hooked, saved from any more embarrassment at the hands, or feet, of Reiten.

Just before the hour mark it was three for Kerr, with the forward rising highest to meet Reiten’s corner to head in. Three minutes later and she had a fourth, with Reiten cutting back from the left and Kerr firing in before celebrating with a backflip. Then it was six, with Harder poking over the line.

The seventh was as easy as the preceding six, with Svitkova sending her fellow substitute Alsu Abdullina’s cross in with a powerful header for her first Chelsea goal.

The visiting Albanian fans remained in fine voice, with play paused late on as the flares which accompanied their constant chanting were thrown on to the pitch, shrouding the Chelsea goal in mist. Unfortunately for the visiting fans this was the most dramatic action Chelsea’s goalkeeper Zecira Musovic would see all night.

“Maybe they got a little bit carried away throwing things on to the pitch but in the main they added to a great atmosphere,” said Green.

There was time for one more thrust forward and Harder got her hat-trick from it, tapping in a loose ball from close range. Chelsea needed this emphatic win, regardless of the opponent. It was a reminder of what they can do, a reminder for the fans and for themselves.

Millie Bright brings Chelsea and Emma Hayes cheer after downing PSG | Women’s Champions League

Captain Magdalena Eriksson had said Chelsea wanted to “make things right” after their group stage exit from the Champions League last season and the Blues got off to a good start in Paris with a 1-0 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain to kickstart their new campaign.

It wasn’t the slickest of performances, but Millie Bright’s first half goal was enough to give Chelsea victory in a feisty encounter, inflicting a second defeat in two days on France’s two sides in the competition, with Arsenal having beaten champions Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday night.

The crowd may have been small, but it was vocal, with 800 PSG ultras, drums out, dancing and singing as one, with many shirtless despite the constant rain. Sat in the shadows of PSG’s Parc des Princes, the Stade Jean-Bouin has a capacity of 20,000, is the home of rugby union side Stade Français.

The biggest absence from Emma Hayes’s squad for their opening group stage fixture was Fran Kirby, who was omitted from the bench as well as the start XI due to illness. The most notable absence though, was Hayes herself.

Still recovering from an emergency hysterectomy, Hayes has handed the reins to her assistant Denise Reddy and general manager Paul Green.

For PSG, Lieke Martens was out of action for the evening, while Marie-Antoinette Katoto remains absent after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament during the Euros.

ParisHome manager Gérard Prêcheur described the Champions League group stage tie with Chelsea as a “beautiful fixture” ahead of kick-off. “We do this job to play games like these,” he said. “We cannot wait to get started but we cannot rush anything. We have to prepare well, but it is true that it is a great fixture and this group stage format is magnificent to play in.”

The match action didn’t quite live up to the billing. Perhaps due to the conditions, neither team could find their rhythm in a scrappy and bitty first half, but Chelsea had the brighter of the few infrequent chances.

After 12 minutes Guro Reiten’s free-kick failed to beat the wall but the visiting side worked it back in and Sam Kerr was able to force goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi into a fine save from her fierce effort.

Magdalena Eriksson beats PSG goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi to the ball but heads wide
Magdalena Eriksson (right) beats PSG goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi to the ball but heads wide. Photograph: Dave Winter/Shutterstock

Just before the half hour mark Chelsea made the breakthrough. Erin Cuthbert’s corner was cleared back to her on the left and the Scotland forward pinged it to the back post where Bright was waiting to side-foot in on the volley.

It was Bright’s third Champions League goal. This game was also the third meeting of the two teams in the Champions League, with Chelsea having played PSG over two legs of the quarter finals in 2018-19. Then, Hayes’s side were triumphant, beating the French side 2-0 at home before suffering a 2-1 defeat in the return fixture and progressing to the last-four on aggregate.

Last season, Chelsea failed to escape the “group of death” with Wolfsburg and Juventus progressing on the basis of head-to-head goal difference after all three teams finished on 11 points apiece.

Chelsea’s group is similarly intimidating this time round, with PSG and Real Madrid, who eliminated Manchester City in qualifying for the group stage, both vying with the WSL champions for two places in the knockout rounds, and Albania’s Vllaznia completing the group line-up. Real defeated the Albanian side 2-0 earlier on Thursdaylast night

After the break in the Stade Jean-Bouin, the narrative didn’t shift despite the home side trailing. It took until the 62nd minute for the French side to register a shot on target, and when it finally came it was tame, Kadidiatou Diani shot easily saved by Ann-Katrin Berger.

That would prove to be PSG’s only shot on target. For Chelsea, it was not pretty but it was job done, and with Vllaznia at home next Wednesday there is a chance for Hayes’s side to build some momentum in the competition.

Pernille Harder scores twice to give Chelsea Women victory at Everton | Women’s Super League

Two goals from Pernille Harder and a late strike from Niamh Charles secured Chelsea a 3-1 win in a tight contest with Everton.

There were touching scenes as the teams warmed up, with Chelsea players wearing shirts bearing the words “get well soon Emma” across the back in support of their absent manager, who is recovering from an emergency hysterectomy following her ongoing battle with endometriosis. Later, the men’s team also wore the message before their Premier League match against Aston Villa.

In Hayes’s place for the trip to Everton was her assistant Denise Reddy, who worked with Hayes at Chicago Red Stars before joining her at Chelsea in 2020 – although the general manager, Paul Green, had said Hayes would be glued to the TV and connected to the bench should she be feeling up to it.

Everton last beat Chelsea in the league in October 2013, with Chelsea having won seven and drawn one of the encounters since, scoring 19 and conceding none, but the Merseyside team are transformed this season under their Danish manager, Brian Sørensen, who left Fortuna Hjørring to join the Toffees.

Quick Guide

WSL roundup: United and Arsenal keep up perfect starts


Ella Toone [pictured] scored twice and provided an assist for Leah Galton’s goal as Manchester United swept aside Brighton with a 4-0 win to continue their perfect start to the season.

Marc Skinner’s side were rampant at their Leigh Sports Village home, with Toone’s double and Galton’s strike all coming in the first half and summer signing Adriana Leon adding to the tally in the second. United stay top of the WSL table on nine points, with 10 goals scored and none conceded in three games.

Arsenal kept pace at the top with their third win from three, behind United by a single goal after a 1-0 victory at Reading. Stina Blackstenius fired a low shot beyond Jackie Burns after half an hour, but the keeper then saved Kim Little’s penalty on the hour mark.

Reading had late chances to grab a draw, with Lily Woodham’s corner hitting the post before Natasha Dowie was denied by a fine reaction save from Manuela Zinsberger 10 minutes from time. The Gunners keeper kept a record eighth straight clean sheet as her team held on.

Two goals from Bunny Shaw, one from Lauren Hemp and a late strike from new recruit Yui Hasegawa gave Manchester City their first points of the season with a 4-0 win over bottom-placed Leicester. Gareth Taylor’s side now have a chance to rebound from their poor start; they do not face any of the current top three until the Manchester derby on 11 December.

Tottenham clung on to a narrow 1-0 lead and held off a resurgent Liverpool performance in the second half to take all three points at Brisbane Road. Celin Bizet’s cross deflected in off Liverpool’s Niamh Fahey at the near post after 11 minutes, but manager Rehanne Skinner will be concerned after her side failed to build on a dominant start. Suzanne Wrack

Photograph: Ed Sykes/X03816

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Back-to-back wins, beating Liverpool 3-0 in the Merseyside derby and Leicester 1-0, followed an opening-day defeat against West Ham after a string of pre-season losses as the team got to grips with the new manager’s plan.

At Walton Hall Park, a sold-out with 1,668 fans, a club-record crowd at the ground, against the champions, the home team started brightly. The wing-back Lucy Graham, the Manchester City loanee Jess Park and Sweden’s Hanna Bennison were particularly effective.

Chelsea’s Niamh Charles scores their side’s third goal of the game during the Barclays Women’s Super League match at Walton Hall Park, Liverpool.
Niamh Charles seals the points with a third goal for Chelsea in injury time. Photograph: Isaac Parkin/PA

Chelsea meanwhile threatened consistently down the left-hand side and in the 38th minute they made the breakthrough down that flank, with Guro Reiten’s cross headed powerfully past the goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan by Harder.

Unperturbed, in the second half the Everton players were rewarded for their labours. Megan Finnigan’s free-kick found Gabby George, the wing-back forced a save from Ann-Katrin Berger, but the ball hit the centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan and went in.

It took just five minutes for Chelsea to regain their lead, with Brosnan penalised for bringing down Reiten and Harder converting from the spot. Substitute Charles scored a third in added time, dancing clear of three Everton defenders before firing coolly past Brosnan.

Emma Hayes will have link to Chelsea dugout and can watch training online | Chelsea Women

Paul Green is temporarily stepping into Emma Hayes’s shoes but expects the Chelsea manager to be involved as much as she can during her recovery from a hysterectomy.

Hayes revealed on Thursday she was stepping away from the touchline while she recuperates after surgery last week. Green, the general manager, will take over alongside the assistant coach Denise Reddy as the Women’s Super League champions return to action against Everton on Sunday before a Champions League game at Paris St Germain next week.

Green said: “Emma will definitely still be involved. She’ll be at home watching all the training online, she’ll be linked into the bench on the match days as long as she’s well enough to do that. I’m sure it’ll be difficult for her to watch the games at home.”

There will be no pressure put on Hayes to come back in any specific timeframe, with Green saying: “I’ve spoken to her quite a few times in the last week. She’s making good progress, she’s back at home now and we hope that progress will continue on a daily basis.”

Green added: “I have worked alongside Emma for nearly 10 years and been in this situation back in 2018 when Emma was pregnant. So it’s not a new situation and I’ve got full confidence in the staff and the players that we’ll deal with this situation and get the results needed to make sure that when Emma comes back into work we’re in a good position on all fronts.”

Emma Hayes to take time away from Chelsea after emergency hysterectomy | Chelsea Women

Emma Hayes has revealed she had an emergency hysterectomy last Tuesday and will need “time and patience to return to full health”. The Chelsea Women manager did not say how long she expected to be away from work.

Hayes wrote in a statement on Chelsea’s website that the operation was related to her “ongoing battle with endometriosis” – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Hayes said her assistants Denise Reddy and Paul Green would take charge of the team in her absence. Chelsea’s next game is at Everton on Sunday and they begin their Champions League campaign at Paris Saint-Germain the following Thursday.

Referring to the players, Hayes wrote: “We have no doubt they’ll do everything to maintain their high standards. To our fans, you’ve had to listen to me bellowing from the other side of the pitch every week but now I want to hear you even louder because I’ll be sitting at home watching the team on the television until my return.

“I know you’ll respect that my health comes first and at this time I’ve got to prioritise what I need to do for me. I fully expect to make a full recovery and I look forward to seeing you in the foreseeable future.”

Women’s Champions League: Arsenal face Lyon, Chelsea in group with PSG | Women’s Champions League

Arsenal and Chelsea will have their work cut out to progress from the group stage of the Women’s Champions League after being handed unenviable assignments on Monday.

Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal play the holders, Lyon, along with the Italian champions, Juventus and Zürich, and Emma Hayes’s side face Real Madrid, Paris Saint-German and the Albanian club Vllaznia. Lyon, who beat Barcelona 3-1 in last season’s final, have won the Champions League eight times and will offer a tricky Group C challenge for Arsenal, quarter-finalists last season when they bowed out to Wolfsburg.

If the north London side’s reunion with Joe Montemurro, their former manager now in charge of Juventus, could also prove challenging, Chelsea’s task looks similarly awkward.

Group A will involve Hayes’s WSL title holders meeting a Madrid ensemble who, with Scotland’s Caroline Weir impressing, eliminated Manchester City in a qualifying round this summer, and PSG, who despite being riven with internal problems were semi-finalists last season.

Chelsea will be particularly keen to be one of the two teams to progress from their group to the quarter-finals after elimination in last season’s group stage.

Group D – Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Rosengård and Benfica – features intriguing contests between three former Manchester City teammates: England’s Barcelona-domiciled Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh and their fellow Lioness Georgia Stanway, now with Bayern.

The remaining group – B – comprises Wolfsburg, Slavia Prague, the Austrian club St Pölten and Roma. Matches will take place between 19 October and 22 December and the final is scheduled for Eindhoven’s PSV Stadion on 3 or 4 June.

Should Arsenal or Chelsea get that far they will have done it the hard way in a competition in which British clubs have traditionally failed to flourish. Chelsea reached the 2021 final, losing to Barcelona, but no British side have won the Champions League since Arsenal’s solitary success in 2007.