Emma Hayes knows her Chelsea side will play without fear when they host Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League tomorrow.
The Blues face the challenge of becoming the first English club to reach the Women’s Champions League final in 12 years but PSG will be a stern test.
The French outfit, who have been a regular feature in Women’s Champions League finals in recent years, having lost to Frankfurt and Lyon in 2015 and 2017, stand in the way of Hayes’ side, but the Chelsea boss believes her squad has never looked stronger ahead of the Kingsmeadow clash.
“We don’t fear PSG, we respect them,” said Hayes.
“We’re playing a successful European team that has twice our budget, but that doesn’t mean that they are twice the team we are.
“We know the personnel we have is enough to hurt many teams in Europe.
“We’ve got experience and quality throughout the squad. You’d find it difficult to find a better team in Europe than ours.
“We are much better prepared than we were 12 months ago, even though we were en route to becoming domestic double champions, because of the accumulative experience we have gained.
“The team, in contrast to the past, have shown the versatility and adaptability needed to progress.
“I won’t know how far we have come until tomorrow night, but I think the gap has really shrunk.
“We have no fear, merely excitement. It’s a knockout competition and anything can happen.
“We work hard all season for big days like tomorrow. You want to test yourself against the best.
“There’s no better night than playing against the very best in the Champions League.
“I’ve been working at the top level for a long time and it’s definitely the competition I enjoy the most.”
Hayes’ Chelsea reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League for the first time in club history last year, only to be knocked out by Wolfsburg for the third consecutive season.
While the loss was disappointing, Chelsea and England midfielder Karen Carney is convinced falling short on successive occasions has fuelled her side to want to achieve more.
“We can definitely win. What’s the point in being in the competition if you don’t believe in it?” said Carney.
“I think you only learn properly when you fail, so we’re much more well equipped now. Disappointment has helped us move in the right direction.
“Our squad is definitely the mentally strongest and most experienced group I have been a part of at Chelsea.
“We’re not naïve – it’s not unfamiliar territory and we’ve been building for this game all year.
“The one year you have the belief, the team and a bit of luck – you can achieve success.
“You have to be respectful of other teams – they have trophies and high quality players but it’s all about being in the game at that moment in time.
“If we reached the semi-finals last year, why can’t we win it this time around?
“It’s a competition everyone wants to win and be a part of. If you haven’t got your eyes on winning, you might as well go home.”