Chelsea Women vs Lyon: International Champions Cup match preview

Sam Kerr of Chelsea (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Sam Kerr of Chelsea (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

The Chelsea Women are back in action ahead of a season filled with anticipation. To begin this new 2022/23 campaign, the Blues are going to be participating 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 for 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 featuring talented teams from all different leagues across the globe. The teams eligible to be part of the competition have to have won at least one trophy last season. The Blues won the Women’s FA Cup and the WSL title for the third consecutive year to ensure their spot. The tournament will be held at Providence Park, home of two-time NWSL champions, Portland Thorns.

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Previewing Chelsea’s first preseason match in the ICC against Lyon

In the first match, it is only fitting that the Blues will take on the reigning Champions League winner, Lyon. This is an opportunity for Emma Hayes to gauge where her team is at the moment against a club they could potentially see later on in the year. Chelsea has only faced Lyon twice before, back in the Champions League in 2019. The teams drew at Kingsmeadow and Lyon secured a one-goal victory on its home turf to advance to the Champions League final. Hayes could view this match in a multitude of ways, but revenge has to be on her mind as her side was so close in 2019 to its first Champions League final.

Taking on players like Ada Hegerberg, Lindsey Horan and young French attacker, Melvine Malard, is going to push this defense to the limit. This will prepare the Blues against the best before the WSL season begins. Last season, Lyon netted 79 goals, while allowing just eight in the league. But there are going to be plenty of questions for Les Lyonnaises as they will be without leading goalscorer, Caterina Macario, due to an ACL injury suffered in the Champions League final.

It could be difficult to guess how the Blues line up and who features on the pitch given all of the new faces around the dressing room. After a hectic summer and a European tournament for many of her players, Hayes could rotate individuals such as Millie Bright, just to keep them fresh for the games in September. It is all up to interpretation on how Hayes views this match. Does she think this is one she wants to play her best team or does she look ahead to the season?

Last season, Chelsea played a few friendlies before the WSL season against domestic opponents with no prize on the line. Hayes played the majority of her mainstays against Aston Villa in the final friendly before the 2021/22 campaign. Erin Cuthbert is the only player on the Chelsea roster that has found the back of the net against Lyon in the past, so a midfield featuring her in the middle of five players—along with Sophia Ingle and Jessie Fleming—could be viable.

When the Thorns defeated Lyon in the ICC final last season, Mark Parsons set up his team with a back four. As did Juventus and Bayern Munich when they beat the French powerhouse last season in Champions League play. Just like for the men’s team, the preseason is the time to try things out, but the trophy no doubt changes the mind of Hayes.

Meanwhile, Sam Kerr returns to Portland after a storied career in the NWSL, including several dominant goalscoring performances at Providence Park. She should get the nod up front along with Bethany England, who is determined to prove herself after getting little time in the Euros.

Kadeisha Buchanan’s first game for Chelsea could be against the team she left back in June, as well. Lyon and the Canadian Women’s National team play a back four a majority of the time with Buchanan as a centerback. The question now becomes whether Hayes goes to a back-three to provide a stable midfield which she used against Manchester City to seal the FA Cup.

While preseason is what it is, there is a trophy on the line at the end of the day. If Hayes has taught the world anything in her 10 years at the club, it is she always wants to capitalize on the chance for some silverware.

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If the Blues defeat Lyon in the semifinals, they will take on the winner of the Thorns and the 2021 Mexican Champion, C.F. Monterrey. It is going to be the exact start to the season that Chelsea is going to want, facing the best of the best around the world in a season where it has legitimate aspirations to challenge at the top of Europe at the end of May.