Chelsea Welcome Back Kirby As European Adventure Continues

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in Chelsea’s media conference this afternoon as captain Magda Eriksson and General Manager Paul Green looked ahead to tomorrow’s Champions League tie against Albanian side Vllaznia at Kingsmeadow (25/10/22).

Above: Chelsea star Fran Kirby looks set to play some part in tomorrow night’s Champions League tie with Vllaznia at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Harriet Lander.

Chelsea General Manager Paul Green has confirmed that Lionesses star Fran Kirby is a strong contender to play a part in the Blues’ Champions League game with Vllaznia at Kingsmeadow tomorrow night.

Speaking to the media this afternoon, Green said: “Things are looking good. Fran Kirby has come back into the squad. She’s been in training the last couple of days and will be an addition to the squad. Fran is a quality player and to have her back for tomorrow night is a big boost.”

Whilst Kirby’s return will be met with joy from the fans, the news was less positive on Serbian midfielder Jelena Čanković, as the club General Manager admitted that “her injury hasn’t settled down as we would have hoped.”

Turning attention to the task at hand tomorrow, whilst Vllaznia may be an unknown quality to many, Green is more than aware that they showed more than enough quality against Real Madrid in last week’s group game to prove they will be stubborn opponents at Kingsmeadow.

“They will be very well organised, very structured defensively. They did very well against Real Madrid last week. It was only two late goals that got Madrid the win, they were very difficult to break down. We are expecting them to come to Kingsmeadow with a similar tactical approach to the game.”

Paul Green, Chelsea General Manager on what he expects from Vllaznia.

“They have a mixture of Albanian internationals and American players as well. They did well in their league last year and are doing so again this year, but we know that if we perform, we are good enough to get the result that we all want.”

“They are in the competition for the first time in their club’s history, so it’s a massive achievement for them to play against some of the best teams in Europe. They will be playing with a lot of freedom, there is not much expectation for them to get out of the group. We need to build on last week’s win at PSG, it’s important for us to go to six points from six in the group.

“We have to look for a fast start, but it’s all about patience and follow the same process with good ball speed to open them up.

“We have to be at our best to break down their low block. We have the players to do it but have to perform at our best level to break down the block and get the goals. If we all perform at our highest level we can get the win we need to build on last week, otherwise going to PSG, getting the win, and not following it up with the bread-and-butter home game against the lowest-ranked team in the group would put us back to the drawing board.”

Above: Albanian champions Vllaznia proved to be stubborn opposition for Real Madrid last week, and Paul Green is not expecting it to be any different tomorrow night at Kingsmeadow. Photo: UEFA.

Whilst some teams may become frustrated by the sort of defensive approach that the Albanian side are likely to set up tomorrow night, Green doesn’t see it being an issue for Chelsea, saying: “Unless we are playing the top teams in the WSL, we are coming against 5-4-1 or 4-4-1-1 all the time. We have to be patient.”

Green provided an update on Ann-Katrin Berger’s health situation after the news recently that her thyroid cancer had returned by saying: “Ann is fit and healthy. She has kept a couple of clean sheets. The way she has handled herself over this period in such difficult circumstances is a real credit to her.

“She is immensely tough and is a real inspiration to all her teammates as someone to look up to. We’re delighted to her coming back on the pitch and she has showed that with her performances.”

Finally, the Blues General manager detailed the latest situation surrounding Emma Hayes’ recovery from major surgery by saying: “Emma is making good progress. We’re in full dialogue on a daily basis. I’m sure she is itching to get back and is probably suffering cabin fever after being homebound for so long.

“She’ll be back before long, but it has to be right for her. The timing will be crucial as her health is the most important thing. There is still no timeline, but I’m sure she’ll be asking her doctors for the green light to come back as soon as she can.

Above: Magda Eriksson – Chelsea’s captain spoke of the contrasting fortunes that her side have experienced in the Champions League over the past two seasons and how they can build on it to have a successful 2022/23 campaign. Photo: @MagdaEricsson Twitter.

Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson began her section of the media conference by reflecting on last week’s superb win away to Paris St. Germain to open their Champions League campaign.

“It was a very tough first game. All we really wanted to get was the three points to prove ourselves, considering last year when we had a tough group and a tough start. We nullified their attacking threats and were clinical going forward. Tomorrow we just want to keep the momentum going. That’s all we are focussed on.”

The Blues’ recent Champions League campaigns have had major ups and downs as the team went from being runners-up in 2021 to failing to navigate the group stage last season. Eriksson highlighted the lessons that have been learned from those contrasting experiences.

“Reaching the Final we learned that we have it within us to go all the way. We know we have the quality to get there. Last year, we discovered the difficulties that come with the group stage where it is six games, a very hectic schedule, and focusing on getting everything right. I’m just glad we got off to a good start with three points in a tough game last week (away to Paris St. Germain).

“Getting those three points was massive, it was a really big win (in the context of the group outcome) and we are really pleased for that. Being Chelsea and having the quality we have, we always put pressure on ourselves to win every single game we play in every single tournament.”

The Swedish international star pointed out that whilst the benefits of Chelsea’s strength in depth are well recognised, what is perhaps not so often highlighted is the benefits that come from having players from so many different players in the squad.

“We have so many different nationalities, players who have played in many different leagues, so we share that knowledge among each other. When we played PSG last week, there were so many of us who had played them before, or played in France. You know you can go and ask these players for information and details.

Magda Eriksson, Chelsea captain, on the benefits of having so many top overseas players in the squad.

Chelsea’s superb win in Paris last week was one of a pair of eye-catching successes for WSL sides in France after Arsenal’s stunning demolition of European Champions Olympique Lyonnais. For Eriksson, it is proof that the standards ot the English domestic game and the importance of having big squads is finally making itself felt in the continent’s top club competition.

“It is good for the league that the English teams are doing well in Europe. It means we have a very competitive league. Every game we play is tough. Those things show their result in Europe eventually. We have big squads because we have to (with all the competitions we have to play in here). Things are moving in the right direction and we look strong.”

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