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‘This is not pressure. It’s a joy’, says Emma Hayes ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League battle with Barcelona

EMMA HAYES is not feeling the pressure as Chelsea prepare to battle Barcelona for a place in the Champions League final.

And the Kingsmeadow boss criticised the rescheduling that has led to the men’s FA Cup final clashing with the Women’s Champions League decider 

Chelsea will face Barcelona at the Nou Camp with a crowd of more than 70,000 expected at the stadium

Emma Hayes side are aiming to reach the Women’s Champions League final for the second time since 2021

Today’s game could see Barcelona ace Alexia Putellas back in action. The midfielder has been declared fit after being sidelined for 10 months with an ACL injury

Later today Hayes’ side will take to the field for a second-leg semis duel with Barcelona.

An estimated 70,000-strong crowd is expected at the Nou Camp to watch the duel.

The match, which kicks off at 5:45pm, comes five days after her WSL title-holders fell to a narrow 1-0 first-leg loss at Stamford Bridge. 

The Chelsea chief, 45, said: “This is not pressure. Many people want to be sitting in a position that I’m sat in. 

“This is a joy to experience and take part in and something that we are working hard every day to do. 

“We prepare for this (kind of) game with every training session, with every game that we play, not just this season, but every season.

“I’m grateful to be in this position. I certainly don’t feel the pressure of it.” 

Barcelona are seen as favourites to lift this year’s trophy with Hayes’ side having knocked out record tournament winners Lyon.

However the Blues’ boss reiterated her side are willing to suffer to fulfil their dream of reaching the final for the second time in two years.

Hayes added: “For us as a team, it’s important for us to be calm, whether it’s moments that don’t go very well or where momentum is in favour of Barcelona. 

“If an early goal comes (for us), fantastic but we’re focussing on getting the performance right, that’s what we have to nail.

“Our mentality – I think for us as a team, it’s something we work out all of the time, not one game. 

“And while there are very different things at stake, there’s a Champions League final at stake; the players need no motivation for that. 

“But they definitely need all of the skills that have been developed over a long period of time to manage playing in front of a large crowd.

“It’s going to be noisy with a team that we’re going to keep the ball for longer periods and we are this is a strength of our team. 

“We are built to cope with these challenges and we like to suffer, so we’re as prepared as we possibly can be.”

Should Chelsea emerge victorious they will face either Arsenal or Wolfsburg at the final in Eindhoven which kicks off at 4:00 pm local time in the Netherlands on Saturday 3 June. 

However that game will now coincide with this year’s men’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Man United.

The Wembley encounter has been brought one hour forward to 3:00pm.

Hayes added: “It’s always disappointing when these things happen. 

“You’d like to think regardless of busy scheduling calendars that we can figure it out not to put them on the same day.”

Chelsea’s and Barcelona’s duel also comes a day after the release of a European Club Association statement that could lead to disputes between clubs and national sides before the World Cup. 

The ECA’s, whose members include WSL teams nsists national associations should “strictly adhere” to Fifa’s mandatory period for the release of players ahead of the World Cup. 

The organisation flagged “serious concerns” over the “lack of rest” from early call-ups which it says “contravenes the protection of players’ health and wellbeing”. 

It comes during a term in which several international pros in England’s top-flight and other European divisions have had their seasons curtailed by injury. 

These include England’s Beth Mead and Leah Williamson and Holland’s record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema who sustained ACL injuries this term.

In response to the statement Hayes said: “We have to reflect on the number of injuries that have taken place in the women’s game and say ultimately the duty of care we have to players. 

“There’s a valid argument for sticking to (international) windows. 

“There’s a reason and rationale to those windows especially in the last three years.

Emma Hayes says the number of injuries within the women’s game needs to be considered in debates concerning international windows

“Players have had so little rest, maybe a couple of weeks at the end of the season. 

“It’s not enough. I can’t speak for this upcoming tournament, I’m not involved in those decisions being made.

“But I do think that as the women’s game has progressed from the amateur game into the professional game there has to be more stringent restrictions on player welfare.”

Barcelona vs Chelsea can be watched live today from 5:45 pm on DAZN’s YouTube channel.