International Champions Cup match preview

Chelsea women are back in action ahead of a season full of anticipation. At the start of this new 2022/23 season, the Blues will compete in the International Women’s Champions Cup, a tournament featuring the best of the best from around the world. From the NWSL to the WSL to Division 1 Feminine, the Women’s ICC features four juggernaut clubs with the right to be crowned the best women’s team in the world.

There is no FIFA Women’s Cup World Cup and so this competition tries to take its place by showcasing talented teams from all different leagues around the world. Eligible teams must have won at least one trophy in the previous season. The Blues won the Women’s FA Cup and WSL title for a third straight season to secure their place. The tournament will be held at Providence Park, home of two-time NWSL champion Portland Thorns.

Preview of Chelsea’s first pre-season game at the ICC against Lyon

In the first game, the Blues will of course meet the reigning Champions League winners Lyon. This is an opportunity for Emma Hayes to assess where her team stands at the moment against a club they could potentially see later in the year. Chelsea have only faced Lyon twice, back in the Champions League in 2019. The sides drew at Kingsmeadow and Lyon secured a one-goal win on their home ground to reach the Champions League final. Hayes could be looking at this game in many ways, but she must have revenge on her mind given her side came so close to their maiden Champions League final in 2019.

When you’re up against the likes of Ada Hegerberg, Lindsey Horan and young French attacker Melvine Malard, this defense will be pushed to the limit. With that, the Blues gear up for the best ahead of the start of the WSL season. Last season, Lyon scored 79 goals while conceding just eight goals in the league. But there will be many questions for Les Lyonnaises as they are without leading scorer Caterina Macario due to an ACL injury in the Champions League final.

With all the new faces in the dressing room, it could be difficult to guess how the Blues will line up and who will appear on the pitch. After a busy summer and a European Cup tournament for many of her players, Hayes has been able to switch the likes of Millie Bright just to keep her fresh for the September games. It’s all up to interpretation of how Hayes sees this match. Does she think she wants to play against her best team or is she looking forward to the season?

Last season, ahead of the WSL season, Chelsea played a couple of friendlies against domestic opponents with no prize at stake. Hayes played most of their mainstays against Aston Villa in the final friendly ahead of the 2021/22 season. Erin Cuthbert is the only player in the Chelsea squad to have scored against Lyon in the past, so a midfield with her in the middle of five players – along with Sophia Ingle and Jessie Fleming – could be doable.

When the Thorns beat Lyon in the ICC Finals last season, Mark Parsons set up his team with a back four. As did Juventus and Bayern Munich when they beat the French powerhouse in the Champions League last season. Just like for the men’s team, preseason is the time to try things, but the trophy undoubtedly changes Hayes’ mind.

Meanwhile, Sam Kerr returns to Portland after a storied career in the NWSL, including several dominant scoring performances at Providence Park. She was set to win the bid alongside Bethany England, who is determined to prove herself after having limited time at the Euros.

Kadeisha Buchanan’s first game for Chelsea could also be against the side she left in June. Lyon and Canada Women’s National Team play a back four with Buchanan at center back most of the time. The question now is whether Hayes will switch to a back three to form the stable midfield she used to seal the FA Cup against Manchester City.

While preseason is what it is, at the end of the day, there’s a trophy at stake. If Hayes has taught the world anything in her 10 years at the club, it’s always going to take a chance at silverware.

If the Blues defeat Lyon in the semifinals, they will meet the Thorns winner and 2021 Mexican champions CF Monterrey. It will be exactly the start to the season Chelsea will want as they take on the best of the best around the world in a season where they have legitimate ambitions to compete at the top of Europe at the end of May.

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