Chelsea to face Ajax in WCL quarter-finals | Is the force with Hayes?


Chelsea will face Ajax in the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals, and could set up another semi-final tie against Barcelona.

The Blues were unbeaten in their group stage campaign, winning four and drawing two games in Group D as they finished top of their table ahead of BK Hacken.

Now, they face Ajax. The Dutch side had reached the Champions League group stage for the first time in its current iteration in the women’s game.

The first legs will be played on either March 19 or 20 with the second legs the following week on March 27 or 28.

The winners will face the victors of the quarter-final between SK Brann and Barcelona. Should the Women’s Super League and LigaF sides be successful, it will be the second year in a row that Chelsea and Barcelona will meet in the final four.

Last year, Barcelona were 2-1 winners on aggregate. They won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg before a 1-1 draw in the return fixture saw them through.

Barcelona also beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 2021 Champions League final – the first time the Blues had reached the showpiece match.

The first legs of the Champions League semi-finals will be played on April 20 and 21, and the second legs a week later on April 27 and 28 2024.

The European trophy remains the one title that eludes Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, who is departing the club at the end of the season after 12 successful years.

When she first announced her departure, Hayes said of the Champions League: “It would be a fairy tale to win it, of course. But I didn’t grow up liking fairy tales – my sister did.

“I would love nothing more than to be in a winning position with this team.”

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Hayes says she is not thinking about a dream quadruple to crown her time in charge.

“No, I don’t think about it,” she said at her press conference on Tuesday. “Most of the time I just dream about getting through the day. I don’t preoccupy my mind thinking about it. We’re where we want to be today and that’s all I can ask of the squad.”

On the Champions League draw, Hayes added: “Ajax are a really good team. We watched them in a pre-season game last year. They’re a young group coming through and it’s as tough a game as we could expect from a quarter-final. It’s going to be tough going away from home in the first leg. We’ll need to use all our power and experience. They’re a top team and deserve to be where they are.

“We would never, ever be disrespectful to Ajax. They’re an excellent team and my focus is on my team being ready for that away leg [not thinking about facing Barcelona] next.”

Women’s Champions League quarter-final draw in full

SK Brann vs Barcelona

Benfica vs Lyon

Ajax vs Chelsea

BK Hacken vs PSG

Women’s Champions League semi-final draw in full

SK Brann or Barcelona vs Ajax or Chelsea

Benfica or Lyon vs BK Hacken or PSG

Is the force with Chelsea in the Champions League?

Hayes has revealed her love of Star Wars as she described the sci-fi franchise as having messages that are “so essential in life”.

Hayes’ side, in what will be their final campaign under her before she steps down to take charge of the United States national team, are navigating a busy schedule with Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final against Sunderland their sixth game in 18 days.

And when asked at a press conference ahead of the tie if the fact it is the last season of her tenure gave her extra energy, the 47-year-old gave an unexpected response.

“To be honest with you The Force Awakens, that gave me a lot of inspiration last night,” Hayes said with a smile.

“And I’m certain the resistance continue to inspire, and we can keep at bay that evil empire. And for now, all I’m thinking about is I need to get on to The Mandalorian.”

Hayes, who has a five-year-old son, was later asked if she watched Star Wars with the eyes of a football manager, and she said: “I think the messages throughout Star Wars, now I’m watching it as an adult, are so essential in life, about the power of love and the dangers of hate.

“And teaching a five-year-old why it’s important not to give into hate…When we have our light sabre moments – I’m pretty good on the light sabre, I’m always Darth Vader which slightly annoys me – I constantly remind him of the importance of community and looking after your people, much like the resistance did.

“And as he always says to me, the republic will remain intact as long as we defeat the evil empire.

“So, yes, essence of the message, always have skilled finishers like the Jedi knights, have the ability to deliver a fatal hit into the Death Star.

“Without doubt, we wouldn’t be anywhere without Luke Skywalker, so all my thanks are there for him and the entire Jedi knights.”

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