Emma Hayes challenges Chelsea to raise performance in semi-final against Lyon

Emma Hayes is attempting to maintain a degree of normality as Chelsea Women prepare for what is arguably the biggest match in the club’s history.

The Blues face Lyon Feminin in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Sunday, hoping to reach the final for the first time but trailing 2-1 from the first encounter at Groupama Stadium.

First-half goals from Delphine Cascarino and Amandine Henry put the hosts in control in Lyon, although Erin Cuthbert’s 72nd-minute reply sees Chelsea firmly in the running to reach next month’s showpiece in Budapest.

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Lyon – the defending and five-time Champions League winners – wrapped up a 13th-consecutive domestic league crown on Wednesday, but Hayes hopes playing the second leg at the rather-less salubrious surroundings of the Cherry Red Records Stadium can give her side a fighting chance.

“We will go about our business in the same way that we do every week,” she told the club’s official website.

“We know that we have got to improve and there is more to come from us.

“The challenge will be to raise that performance at home, probably in front of a packed crowd, because Lyon will come at us and throw everything they have got, so it’s crucial that we raise our level and do everything we can to get to the final.

Emma Hayes hopes to lead Chelsea to the Champions League final for the first time

Emma Hayes hopes to lead Chelsea to the Champions League final for the first time (John Walton/PA)

“I want to challenge our fans and the players to make it so difficult for Lyon.

“Kingsmeadow is such a fortress for us and I think collectively we know we’re going to suffer on Sunday, but the best things in life are not easy. We are going to have to fight with everything we have.

“Lyon have acknowledged that they weren’t the best (in the first leg) and they are very confident that they will go to the final, so our team and our fans must do everything to stop that from happening.”

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Lyon are assessing the fitness of midfielder Henry after she sustained an injury in Wednesday’s title-clinching 4-0 win at Dijon, but coach Reynald Pedros is bullish about his side’s chances of reaching the final.

“We have to change our attitude a bit, especially defensively” he told the club’s website.

“But these are things that are easily modifiable for us. There is nothing alarming.

“If we improve on that, the chances are we qualify. The girls know what is expected of them.

“We remain confident but it will take a lot to qualify, as in the first leg. There can be no relaxation in a European semi-final.”

Hayes, whose preparations have included inviting a holocaust survivor to give a talk about resilience and humility at the training ground, has no injury concerns ahead of the match.

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