Departing manager Emma Hayes says leading Chelsea to Women’s Champions League glory in her final season at the club would be a “fairytale”.
Hayes has enjoyed major success since taking charge in 2012 but is yet to win the Champions League with the Blues.
“It would be a fairytale, of course, but I didn’t grow up liking fairytales too much,” Hayes said.
“I’m more practical than that but I’d like nothing more than to be in a winning position with this team.”
Chelsea, who were knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners Barcelona in the semi-finals last season, begin their 2023-24 campaign with a trip to Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Under Hayes, who is close to being confirmed as manager of the United States Women’s national team, they have lifted six Women’s Super League titles, five FA Cups and two League Cups, becoming a dominant force in English football.
In 2021 she led the Blues to the Champions League final, but they were beaten 4-0 by Barcelona in Gothenburg.
England defender Millie Bright joined the Blues two years after Hayes and credits her with much of her development.
Bright said: “It has been a bit of a whirlwind [since the announcement], Immediately, as a player and a person, I was devastated.
“I’ve been here nine years now under Em. I’ve learned so much – she is a mentor, a coach, a friend, a life coach, it’s more than just playing football under her. That has probably been the biggest thing in taking my game to the next level.
“If you can play under a manager that long and keep thriving it’s very rare.
“It has been a privilege to work with her for so long. We’re so grateful and proud of what we’ve achieved but we have a full season ahead and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Real Madrid a ‘challenge Chelsea are ready for’
Chelsea’s first assignment in this season’s Champions League comes on the road when they face Real Madrid on Wednesday at 20:00 GMT.
The two clubs met in the 2022-23 group stage and played out a 1-1 draw at Alfredo di Stefano Stadium after a 2-0 victory at Kingsmeadow. Ultimately they failed to get out of the group, but Hayes is not taking anything for granted.
“We’ve analysed Madrid’s game, we know the personnel, we know what to expect – but knowing what to expect and delivering is different,” she said.
“They are a team that are quick in transition, in front areas they have players who can pick passes to get in behind.
“They are patient so we have to be patient away from home. They are a team that are growing in stature away from home.”
Bright, meanwhile, is keen to make sure Chelsea live up to the standards set during Hayes’ tenure as they embark on another European journey.
“[Playing in the Champions League is] everything, it’s why players come to Chelsea – it’s a club that stands for winning and represents winning,” Bright said.
“We want to be a dominant force. It’s a trophy we don’t have but it’s game by game and it’s a challenge we are ready for.”