Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder set for personal Champions League battle

first_imgShare on WhatsApp Topics Read more If all London eyes will be on the Eriksson/Harder duel, a key subplot at Manchester City’s Academy Stadium on Sunday lunchtime involves Lucy Bronze’s performance for a star‑studded Lyon against her old City team-mates. The England right-back is particularly anxious to remind her former fans – and some good friends in Nick Cushing’s side – of precisely what they have been missing since her departure for France last summer.Indeed both Cushing and Emma Hayes, his Chelsea counterpart, face tall orders at a time when they are also vying for the English Women’s Super League title.City’s task appears the toughest. After all, Reynald Pedros’s much-vaunted team, formidable runaway French League leaders, hope to win a fourth Champions League title while lifting the trophy for a third successive year. If Cushing can take heart from City’s narrow 3-2 aggregate defeat by Lyon at the same stage 12 months ago, he has since lost not only the hugely influential Bronze but the England forward Toni Duggan, who decamped to Barcelona last summer.Duggan’s replacement, the Afghan-born Denmark striker Nadia Nadim, is still acclimatising to life in Manchester and a defence destabilised by recent injuries to Steph Houghton is leaking more goals than Cushing would like.He blames a draining combination of fixture congestion and international commitments. The strain of playing twice a week and losing City’s nine strong England contingent for a spate of recent high profile games has evidently exerted a toll.“We’ve spoken about the goals we’re conceding now which we weren’t back in 2016,” says Cushing. “The difference is that we weren’t in the Champions League then and had a lot of time to work on our game. This season we’ve had virtually no training time but ours is a young team which needs coaching. Conceding goals doesn’t surprise me because we haven’t had time to coach the team enough.“But we’re still one of the best sides in Europe, we’ve got the ability to dominate opponents with the ball. Lyon are the greatest team in the world at the moment but we’ve beaten them before [1-0 in last season’s away leg]. That gives us confidence.”Hayes is equally aware of this season’s specific time constraints, not least because the 41-year-old is due to give birth to twins in June.While Wolfsburg, topping Germany’s female Bundesliga and twice Champions League winners, aim to spare her the logistical complications of coping with next month’s final in Kiev, Flaherty has immense faith in Hayes’s gameplan.“Emma’s a very technical coach and we’ve done a lot of in depth work on Wolfsburg,” she says. “Emma’s very clever and we’re lucky to have her. We know what we need to do, we’ve just got to pull it all together over two legs on the pitch.”Flaherty knows that, personal glory aside, an English winner in Ukraine could have far reaching domestic ramifications. “At a time when financial issues mean the futures of Millwall and Sunderland are under massive threat it would be very important,” she says. “It would show clubs that it’s definitely worth investing in their women’s teams.”Along with several City counterparts – and Bronze – the England midfielder Jill Scott started her career at Sunderland and shares a similar appreciation of the potential wider importance of English success in Europe. “We’re determined to reach the final,” says Scott. “The Champions League is the medal we all want.” Share on Messenger Chelsea and Manchester City could be victims of their own success Women’s football Share on Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img The Observer Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn features Reuse this content Share via Email Personal and professional worlds will collide during Sunday’s Champions League semi-finals as old friends are reunited and punishing schedules threaten to chafe against vaulting ambition.Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder are expected to find themselves in direct public combat when Chelsea host Wolfsburg in the first leg of their semi-final at Kingsmeadow on Sunday evening. In private, though, Harder, the German side’s star Denmark striker, and Eriksson, Chelsea’s Sweden defender, are a long-standing couple, currently living in different countries in order to advance their elite careers.“It could be a bit of a tense one for Magdalena,” says her fellow defender Gilly Flaherty. “But she’s so professional and so determined I don’t think she’ll let it become a problem.”last_img read more