Chelsea Ladies will be looking to make the most of their home advantage in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie this evening.
Their 1-0 win at Kingsmeadow over Bayern Munich in the last round was crucial in seeing them through, with a clean sheet allowing them to exploit the away goals rule in the second-leg in Germany.
FC Rosengard are a huge test for them however, with the Swedish side coming into the tie with vast Champions League experience – and the top scorer in Women’s European football history.
Kick-off is at 7.05pm tonight, and here’s our rundown of how the two teams – both in fine form – are shaping up.
Rosengrad sit second in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, and are unbeaten in 14 games. However, they will be unable to catch league leaders Linkopings, meaning they will finish runners-up for the second consecutive season. In the Champions League, they have reached the quarter-finals in six of the last seven seasons, falling to Barcelona in the last eight in their last campaign.
Chelsea have yet to taste domestic defeat this season, and have kept clean sheets in all four of their Women’s Super League games. They knocked Bayern Munich out in the last round, despite a 2-1 defeat in Germany, thanks to the away goals rule.
Caretaker boss Malin Levenstad is the youngest coach in the Champions League, aged just 29. The former international defender took charge of Rosengrad in September, following termination of former head coach Jack Majgaard Jensen’s contract. She will step down after this tie to be replaced by Eidevall. Having played over 150 games for Rosengrad over the course of a decade, Levenstad was also part of Sweden’s 2012 London Olympics squad.
Rosengrad’s Key Player
German forward Anja Mittag (pictured above) has scored 37 goals in 50 Champions League games for Rosengrad, Wolfsburg, Paris St Germain, and Turbine Potsdam, and last month became the first player to score 50 goals in European club competitions when she netted in her side’s 4-0 win over FC Cluj in the last round. The diminutive striker has not found the net as regularly as she would want domestically however, scoring just five times in 19 appearances.
Both sides have fully-fit squad’s to choose from. Eni Aluko will be pushing to keep her place in the starting line-up following her recent goalscoring form, although South Korean international Ji So-yun is likely to be recalled.
Bibiana Steinhaus, from Germany, was in charge of last season’s Champions League final between Lyon and Paris St Germain. The 38-year-old had a brief playing career with SV Bad Lauterberg before becoming a referee in 1999, and combines her officialdom with her day job as a police officer.
This will be the first competitive meeting between the two clubs, although they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a friendly game earlier this year.
Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager
“It’s a massive test for us against the third-top side in Europe. Beating Bayern gives us great belief, but it will count for nothing if we don’t progress through this stage.
“We have to be conscious of the fact that Rosengard have been a top team in Europe over the past 10 or 15 years and they probably have more experience than us, even if we’re the team in the ascendancy.
“It’s going to be a brilliant night of European football with top internationals on show – and you won’t be able to see a better game of football across the country tomorrow night.”
Anja Mittag, Rosengard forward
“Chelsea are a really hard team to meet and one of the toughest opponents we could have got in the whole draw.
“We are the underdog – Chelsea have great players. We will need a really good day to get something against them but we will try our best. To get through would be a huge achievement for us.”
Terrace and seat tickets are available on the gate for £6 adults, £3 concessions. A free programme will be available on entry (whilst stocks last!). The game will be shown live on Chelsea TV and Chelsea’s YouTube channel.
William Hill Odds
Chelsea 2/5; Draw 7/2; Rosengard 9/2.
This is an intriguing tie. Both sides are in great form and Rosengard’s pedigree in the competition will count for little in this first meeting of the two sides. Home advantage should enable Chelsea to take a first-leg lead, and we think they’ll be 2-0 up going into the second leg.