If UEFA Women’s Champions League's history favours someone in this confrontation, it's Wolfsburg, who have overcome Chelsea on three occasions. On the other hand, Emma Hayes wants to prove her team's competence and quality through this classification.
While Wolfsburg are a team in transition, with several players close to retirement and betting on young players like Ingrid Syrstad Engen and Rebecka Blomqvist, Chelsea have been structuring their squad for the past three seasons in search of the European crown. The arrival of players like Melanie Leupolz, Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder are examples of the Blues' focus on winning the competition.
Chelsea will not have their official penalty taker, Maren Mjelde, who was injured in the Continental Tyres League Cup final and will be out of the team for the remainder of the season. Bethany England is also out of the first leg due to her recovery from the concussion against Atletico Madrid. On Wolfsburg's side, Ewa Pajor is returning from injury and usually does not play the 90 minutes.
In a press conference, Hayes highlighted the need for experience and discipline to deal with decisive games that require different types of pressure. Still, she stressed the importance of the history of confrontations against Wolfsburg and the Germans should not be underestimated:
“Anybody getting lulled into thinking this a different Wolfsburg are fooled, this is a Wolfsburg team that have as much quality as I’ve ever seen in them and I’m sure they will be confident given their recent history against us.”
According to Ralf Kellermann, Wolfsburg's Women's Sports Director, it will be a great challenge for the Wolves:
“We have already faced Chelsea three times, but the team has strengthened once again, especially in the last two years. We look forward to this test of strength with a top European team and, of course, to see Pernille Harder again.”
Predicted Line Ups
Chelsea: Berger; Charles, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Ji So Yun, Leupolz; Harder, Reiten, Kirby; Kerr.
Wolfsburg: Kierdrzynek; Hendrick, Gossling, Janssen, Rauch; Rolfö, Oberdorf, Engen, Huth; Blomqvist, Popp.
Chelsea and Wolfsburg have faced each other six times: five Wolfsburg wins and a draw. The English were eliminated by Germans in the round of 16 (2015-16), in the round of 32 (2016-17) and the semifinals (2017-18). Wolfsburg thrashed Chelsea 5-1 in the last clash.
Ones to Watch
Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr are Chelsea's top names of the season. In addition to being vice-scorers in the FA Women's Super League with 12 goals each, they move a lot on the pitch and always seem to be in sync. Fran Kirby has three goals and an assist in the competition and Kerr has a goal and an assist. Guro Reiten is also an important player in guiding the ball from the midfield to the attack, being responsible for six assists in UWCL.
Katarzyna Kiedrzynek has four clean sheets in the competition and she is very safe when requested under the goalposts. Her 30 years old show her experience and the advantage that this brings to the knockout stages of the competition. In the attack, Alexandra Popp has returned to her high performance to help the Germans in goal conversion, that's why she is one of the most effective players of the edition: 1.61 goals every 90 minutes.
Finally, despite not being an absolute starter, Zsanett Jakabfi scored a hat trick in the 2016-17 clash and can be used in the second half as a secret weapon. The Hungarian has 10 goals and three assists in the Bundesliga and two goals in the Champions League.
Stand Out Player
Pernille Harder was at Wolfsburg from 2016 to 2020 and, despite not having won the Champions League with the Wolves, she won two Bundesliga and two DFB Pokal. Wolfsburg was the European competition runner up in 2018 and 2020 and Harder was elected UEFA Women's Player of the Year on both occasions. She has 103 goals in 113 appearances for Wolfsburg.
At Chelsea, Harder is much more an assistant than a top scorer. She moves around the field a lot and is responsible for most of the team's key passes. She has accumulated eight goals and three assists in the FA Women’s Super League and one goal and one assist in the Champions League. Her skills prove how Harder is a complete player and essential to Emma Hayes' style of play.
How to Watch
The match kicks off at 4:00 p.m. (GMT) at Szusza Ference Stadium in Budapest, Hungary.
International fans can also watch the clash on ChelseaFC.com, the 5th Stand app and Wolfsburg TV, not including previous countries.