Chelsea set to break record in huge barca UWCL clash


Chelsea Women are set to achieve a record attendance on Saturday when they welcome Barcelona for a huge Champions League semi-final second leg.

If you look at the on-field results in isolation, Chelsea have made a terrific start to Emma Hayes' final season at the helm. After a sluggish beginning, where they narrowly beat Tottenham on the opening day before snatching a point in the 96th minute against nine-player Manchester City, the Blues have kicked into gear in recent weeks. They've won five Women's Super League matches in a row and were only deprived of a Champions League victory over Real Madrid by a pair of shocking refereeing decisions.

The most recent result of this impressive run came on Saturday, when they cut WSL upstarts Liverpool down to size by romping to a 5-1 victory. Lauren James stole the show, helping herself to a stunning hat-trick, while Aggie Beever-Jones and Sjoeke Nusken chipped in with the other goals.

Beever-Jones' strike was of particular significance as she became the first Chelsea youth-team graduate to score at the club's historic home, Stamford Bridge. It was just the latest in a growing list of magic moments that fans have been treated to in west London. So, why is it that more people are not taking up the offer to watch Hayes' all-conquering Blues at the Bridge?

In total, Chelsea welcomed 12,802 spectators through the turnstiles against Liverpool, meaning nearly 28,000 seats were left empty. Although the attendance was still significantly higher than if the game had been played at the Blues' 2,265-capacity Kingsmeadow home, it was hard not to be a little underwhelmed with the ticket sales, considering the game was played during a men's international break and Manchester United attracted 43,000 through the door for the Manchester derby a day later

Chelsea's season opener against Tottenham was only marginally better attended, with just shy of 15,000 watching Chelsea secure three points. A few years ago, these numbers would have been cause for celebration. Let us not forget that the club gave away over 40,000 free tickets for their WSL meeting with Spurs in 2019 - and still did not fill the Bridge. However, after game-changing Euros and World Cup tournaments, even-higher attendances have, perhaps naively, become expected.

Chelsea will appreciate this more than most; their London derby against Tottenham brought a near sell-out crowd last season, while their Champions League semi-final meeting with Barcelona saw close to 30,000 turn up.