Karen Carney tells Jessy Parker Humphreys how the Blues can beat Bayern ahead of the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
“How do you stop this Chelsea side?”
That is what Bayern Munich will be asking themselves on Sunday, as they face Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. It is also what Champions League winner and ex-Chelsea player Karen Carney is asking as she analyses Chelsea’s chances of reaching their first ever Champions League final.
“Chelsea have every element with those three,” Carney continues, referring to Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, and Pernille Harder.
“Sam [Kerr] constantly puts pressure on the backline, so they’re nervous, so they drop. The two Bayern girls won’t want to get beat, so if they drop, well – good luck with that. Because then you’ve got Fran Kirby or Pernille Harder in those pocket spaces. If you get tight to them, then you’ve got to worry about Sam Kerr beating you for pace which you don’t want.
“So what do you do? Do you drop more people back? Then you’ve got no outlet.”
Carney pinpoints the Bayern centre-backs as positions where Chelsea can get some joy.
“I feel you can get at them. I’d go and press them. I’d be really front-footed, really aggressive. I think they lack a little bit of pace.”
Bayern’s seemingly unstoppable season has ground to a halt in recent weeks, as a shock collapse against Hoffenheim has let Wolfsburg back into the Frauen-Bundesliga title race. Meanwhile an injury to first choice goalkeeper Laura Benkarth has seen 19-year-old Maria Luis Grohs step in. Grohs has conceded five goals in the past two games – a statistic that is even more stark when you consider Bayern had only previously conceded three in the league across the whole rest of the season.
Chelsea, though, can look equally nervous when it comes to defending. “The big issue for me is [Magda] Eriksson not being available,” says Carney.
The Chelsea captain was missing for the mid-week game against Manchester City, having picked up an injury against London City Lionesses in the FA Cup.
“For me, [Eriksson]’s the best centre-back in Europe. You’re not going to beat her aerially. You’re not going to beat her physically. What she does is she brings [Jonna] Andersson in, she keeps her tight. The same language, I think, is a really good help.
“They’ve got a good relationship, and the same with Millie [Bright]. I think she keeps Millie calm and relaxed.”
It was noticeable against Manchester City that Chelsea were almost caught out a number of times by the space Chloe Kelly was able to find behind Andersson. It is something that Bayern Munich’s Lineth Beerensteyn will be equally adept at doing.
“Bayern are very strong down the right,” explains Carney. “There are players that can hurt Chelsea.”
Carney knows how close Chelsea have come in this competition, having been part of the side that narrowly lost to Lyon in the Champions League semi-final in 2019. In the past, she has pinpointed that fixture as a turning point for the club, where they realised they could compete at the highest level in women’s football.
“I thought that was a catalyst mentally,” explains Carney. “For the staff, for the players, to go ‘We’re not that far off…’ I keep describing this group as ‘mentality monsters.’
“I don’t think they played well against Man City. I said that to Emma [Hayes]. But even with the performance that wasn’t great – there were players doing uncharacteristic things, making mistakes – they still came away with the result.”
“They are mentality monsters. They find a way. And they’ve got a manager that is ruthless and is willing to do whatever is needed to be done to get a result.”
Carney is tight-lipped when it comes to predicting a winner of the competition as a whole (“I’m not going to say, but I have it in my head”), but thinks Chelsea have done well to avoid Barcelona and Paris St-Germain in the other semi-final.
“I think the other draw is very juicy. I’m excited to see how that pans out.
“Barca literally pulled [Manchester] City apart in the first leg. PSG… now is their time to shine. Their mentality is different. I’ve seen different mentalities in the PSG side that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
“Every team is top of their respective league so it’s not going to be easy [for anyone].”
Returning to her old side’s fixture, Carney is optimistic.
“I’d be confident if I was Chelsea. I hope it’s not my naivety, but I would feel confident that Bayern are beatable.”
has live coverage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-finals, including Bayern Munich Women v Chelsea Women from 3.30pm on Sunday 25th April on BT Sport 2.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph