Emma Hayes has warned there is “always a danger with an unknown team” as Chelsea attempt to take control of their Champions League group against the Swiss side Servette FC on Tuesday night.
The champions of Switzerland beat the Scottish champions Glasgow City 3-2 on aggregate in the second round of qualifying to reach the group stage but have lost their first two games to Juventus and Wolfsburg, conceding eight without reply.
“You have to suffer for experience sometimes,” said the Chelsea manager of Servette. “Usually that’s when you are defeated. For them as a team, they will understandably not be at our level just yet but they are worthy of being in this competition and they will no doubt learn from their two previous games. From those learnings they will add even more.”
The Chelsea captain, Magda Eriksson, agreed that it is important not to underestimate opponents from a new environment.
“We have a really good staff that does a thorough analysis of the opposition. I also like to watch them myself a lot,” she said. “We have some footage of them having played the teams we have played so we kind of know where they’re at and where we’re at even though we haven’t played them. They are a different team, it’s always different playing a team from another league with a different football culture.
“We know that any team in this competition can cause a threat if you’re not on it from the start. We have to be tidy at the back, we have to be ready for anything they might throw at us and be flexible tactically as well.”
Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Wolfsburg in their opening game of Group A and their 2-1 win against Juventus in Turin mean they sit in second place, level on points with Wolfsburg. If Chelsea beat Servette and Juventus take points off their German opposition then the Blues will top the group at the halfway stage with two home games and a testing trip to Germany to come.
Hayes believes they’ve got what it takes to pass Tuesday night’s test. “I’m confident that the whole group is in a good place,” she said. “To have everyone available for selection is where you want to be at this stage. I’m confident that the minutes we’re giving our players will contribute to what we’re looking to achieve. We can’t control outcomes but what we can control is the type of performance. I know our team really enjoys the pressure and the expectation. We’re really looking forward to being against a new opponent and picking up things we can learn from it.”
Since the three goals conceded at home to Wolfsburg, and the five goals conceded in the five games prior, Chelsea have tightened things up at the back, conceding just once since.
“It’s something we’ve talked about and focused on,” Eriksson said. “We keep really high standards at the back and we know we’ve conceded too many cheap goals. So looking at it, talking about it, working on it in training, really doing that consciously is proving to pay off. This is the new standard for us.”
Hayes added that clean sheets were a matter of pride. “You have to have pride in that as a team. It’s not one player. You have to have that pride to make it extremely difficult for the opponent to create much and I think we eradicated that. Our focus now is about taking parts of the game and getting better at it.
“The group is in a good space. I really feel a good energy across the team and I feel that’s being rewarded with the more minutes that everyone is getting. We will need everyone if we want to go far in the latter stages of the season. You don’t win anything now. You have to stay in it and keep everyone fresh and hungry.”