Emma Hayes: ‘There is no favourite’ in Champions League, says Chelsea boss

Chelsea players celebrate
Chelsea progressed to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid in the last 16
Fixture: Chelsea v Wolfsburg Date: Wednesday 24 March Kick-off: 16:00 GMT Venue: Szusza Ferenc Stadion, Budapest BBC coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says this year’s Champions League is more open than ever before and “six teams could win it easily”.

The Blues take on last year’s runners-up Wolfsburg in the first leg of their quarter-final in Budapest on Wednesday.

Hayes’ side hope to break Lyon’s run of five successive Champions League titles – the French champions having beaten Wolfsburg 3-1 in last season’s final.

“I don’t think there is one favourite over another,” said Hayes.

“It’s taken time for there to be a greater parity of opposition in the latter stages of the competition other than a German team and a French team. This is the first real year.

“I’ve got a lot of experience in my team too, and I’m looking forward to watching them cope with playing against a team that has won, every time, in the biggest games against us, and I’m extremely curious to see how far we’ve progressed in the last three years.”

Chelsea have been knocked out of Europe by the German side on three previous occasions, including at the semi-final stage in 2017-18.

The Women’s Super League leaders will be without England forward Bethany England, who suffered from concussion following their last-16 victory over Atletico Madrid.

“Beth is the only absentee going into Wednesday. She needs a little bit more time,” added Hayes.

“She’s training in a non-contact way with the group but we have to do the right thing by her first.”

Due to coronavirus restrictions in Germany preventing Wolfsburg from travelling to the UK, the two legs will both be staged at Ujpest’s Szusza Ferenc Stadion in the Hungarian capital, with the return tie being played on 31 March.

Manchester City meet Barcelona, Lyon face Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich play Swedish side Rosengard in the other last-eight ties.

‘Hunger drives us on a daily basis’

Pernille Harder and Magda Eriksson
Pernille Harder (left) spent three years at Wolfsburg before joining her partner Magdalena Eriksson (right) at Chelsea in the summer

Chelsea remain on course to win five trophies this season having already picked up the Community Shield and Continental League Cup.

The league leaders can also add the FA Cup, Champions League and WSL titles.

Club captain Magdalena Eriksson, whose partner Pernille Harder joined Chelsea for a record fee from Wolfsburg last summer, said tasting success already will drive them to achieve more.

“The hunger within the squad is massive. The Champions League is the biggest thing,” she added.

“There are not a lot of us who have been in a [European] final so that hunger that we have is what drives us on a daily basis, drives us in training and drives us all the time to have those goals in our minds.

“I just hope we can go out there with no fear and play our normal game.”