Former Chelsea star Karen Carney spoke with GiveMeSport Women ahead of the Blues’ Champions League semi final first leg against Bayern Munich this Sunday.
Emma Hayes’ side are still searching for their first-ever European silverware, but Carney believes they have the more favourable semi final matchup and is confident the team has what it takes to go all the way this year.
“I think there’s potential weaknesses in that Bayern Munich line-up that Chelsea can really exploit,” she says.
“I think the other side of the draw is very tough as well. Both sides are exceptional and I’m kind of glad that Chelsea aren’t facing either of them in the semi final.”
The Blues have boasted an impressive squad for a number of years now, but this season they are seemingly stronger than ever. The imposing front three of Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder have been in tremendous form of late, but Carney points towards the Chelsea skipper, Magdalena Eriksson –– as the player who has gone most under the radar.
“I've been saying all along –– Erikkson. Goals win you games but clean sheets win you championships…[she’s] just a colossal defender. Left-footed with that leadership and mentality.”
Carney also believes it’s ridiculous that some of the Chelsea team are only starting to get the credit they deserve recently. Ann-Katrin Berger was singled out for praise this week after an incredible save denied Manchester City victory in the winner takes all WSL clash. Despite this, Carney points out these sorts of heroics should not be considered unexpected.
“She’s been making these saves for years, but where I think she’s gone to a whole new level is her game management. She senses things –– when she needs to slow things down or kill the momentum. Her awareness, game understanding and distribution is second to none.”
While it’s Hayes who has brought many of these established stars to the club, but the Chelsea coach is equally adept at identifying young prospects and bringing players through.
“Emma’s strength is recruitment, she’s the best at recruiting talent,” Carney stresses. Indeed, the emergence of Niamh Charles this season has surprised many, not least because the 21-year-old has spent most of her time in defence, but Carney reveals that the Chelsea boss had this role in mind for her all along.
“She actually sent me some clips to watch [of Charles], and said ‘I see her as a right-back.’ She sees things in players that other people might not necessarily see.”
Asked if Emma Hayes is one of the best coaches in the world right now, Carney feels that she’s “definitely up there”, but equally, to be regarded as the very best she has to win a European trophy.
“To be in that bracket, she’s got to win the Champions League. What she’s done for the football club is amazing but the next level now is the Champions League and that’s the one you’ve got to go after.”
As a Chelsea fan herself, Carney promises she wasn’t ever nervous watching the City game on Wednesday and always felt “relaxed and chilled about it.” This weekend’s tie is a different story, however, and the 33-year-old says she may be “hiding behind the sofa” if things get too tense.
If Chelsea do finally create European history and secure back-to-back WSL titles, then what is next for Emma Hayes’ side? For Carney, the answer is simple: “Do it again.”
The renowned pundit elaborates further by saying that the challenge won’t be finding the motivation, but who will actually be part of this new journey.
“Winners go again, the project starts again. It’s just about who’s going to be there to start that project.”
It may be easy to think ahead in this way, but for now, there is no focus on next year, or the league or even the Champions League final. Like always, it’s about taking every game as it comes, starting with Bayern this weekend.News Now - Sport News