Home Sports Chelsea Women star Pernille Harder on Champions League redemption this season

Chelsea Women star Pernille Harder on Champions League redemption this season

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Chelsea Women forward Pernille Harder has Champions League redemption and a WSL title defence in her sights as the Blues prepare to kick start their 2021-22 campaign this weekend.

Emma Hayes’s side came incredibly close to clinching the Europe’s top prize last season but suffered final heartbreak at the hands of Barcelona’s Invincibles. 

The Catalans demolished Chelsea with four first-half goals which handed them their first coveted title.

Chelsea Women forward Pernille Harder has her sights set on Champions League glory

Chelsea Women forward Pernille Harder has her sights set on Champions League glory

Harder (left) spoke exclusively to Sportsmail ahead of Chelsea's 2021-22 season

Harder (left) spoke exclusively to Sportsmail ahead of Chelsea’s 2021-22 season

Chelsea lost in the Champions League final 4-0 to LaLiga champions Barcelona

Chelsea lost in the Champions League final 4-0 to LaLiga champions Barcelona 

However, as the saying goes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and Harder insists that the Blues are back better and gunning for Champions League glory this season.

‘It was the first time Chelsea were in the Champions League final, so it was a big step and a big achievement to get there, but obviously we also want to go on to win it,’ she said, speaking exclusively to Sportsmail.

‘And that’s what we aim for now and the future, to not just be there, but also to win it.

Emma Hayes's side suffered European final heartbreak at the hands of Barcelona last season

Emma Hayes’s side suffered European final heartbreak at the hands of Barcelona last season

Harder (right) insists that Chelsea will come back from the defeat stronger ahead of the season

Harder (right) insists that Chelsea will come back from the defeat stronger ahead of the season

Reaching the final was a big step for Chelsea but the Dane is adamant her team want to win

Reaching the final was a big step for Chelsea but the Dane is adamant her team want to win

‘I think it’s important to get this experience of being in finals. We have been there now but we think we can develop even more. 

‘We have the potential to play even better and to be able to win against Barcelona. We are working hard in our pre-season, and we will work hard during the season to get better every week. 

‘We’re just focusing on the future and on getting better. We have looked back and looked at what we didn’t do good enough so we can do it better this year.

‘I think we have the team for it. And I think if we play our best and we get better and better for every game we play, I think it will be possible.’

The 28-year-old claimed Chelsea have the potential to play better and beat Barcelona

The 28-year-old claimed Chelsea have the potential to play better and beat Barcelona 

However, the Denmark international isn’t convinced it will be easy as she insists the competition is tougher than ever. 

‘There are a lot of good teams now in Europe. And the competition is just getting bigger and bigger,’ she said.

‘It’s difficult to say which teams, because I think there are a lot [that could be in contention]. Obviously, Barcelona, yes. They won it last year and are a great team.

‘But there is also PSG, Lyon, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, us, Arsenal and Manchester City. So there are a lot of teams who are on a high level.’

The Blues will face tough competition this year from Europe's top teams such as Wolfsburg

The Blues will face tough competition this year from Europe’s top teams such as Wolfsburg

The Women’s Champions League is debuting a new look this season as a group stage has been introduced for the first time.

The former knockout round of 16 has been replaced with a 16-team group stage, which Chelsea have already automatically qualified for. 

Four groups of four teams will play each other home and away with the top two in each group progress to the quarter-finals. 

‘With this new group stage, I think it will be really exciting,’ said the Dane.

‘I think it’s good because all teams who reach their group stage will be playing like six games at least or against three opponents.

‘This will develop it to make it really interesting for all the teams. And also, it will be better for brands to get in to with partnerships when it’s like this.’ 

Pernille Harder, Melanie Leupolz, Jamie Chadwick and Naomi Schiff cheers Heineken®’s three exciting new partnerships - UEFA Women’s Champions League, UEFA Women’s European Championship & W Series.

Pernille Harder, Melanie Leupolz, Jamie Chadwick and Naomi Schiff cheers Heineken®’s three exciting new partnerships – UEFA Women’s Champions League, UEFA Women’s European Championship & W Series.

Champions League vengeance won’t be the only thing on the Blues’ minds this season as Chelsea strive to defend their title. 

The west London side set a WSL record for successive unbeaten matches last season – going 33 games without defeat – as they pipped Manchester City to league glory by two points.

Coach Emma Hayes has engineered Chelsea to four league titles since 2015 and recently signed a new contract to stay at the helm and steer the Blues to more. 

Chelsea kickstart their campaign as they face London rivals Arsenal in their league opener at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Harder believes Chelsea face a tough challenge but insists they can fend off their rivals City, Arsenal and Everton to maintain their WSL crown and secure their third consecutive title. 

Harder was part of the Chelsea side that pipped Manchester City to league glory by two points

Harder was part of the Chelsea side that pipped Manchester City to league glory by two points

Emma Hayes signed a new contract after engineering Chelsea to four league titles since 2015

Emma Hayes signed a new contract after engineering Chelsea to four league titles since 2015  

The Blues kickstart their title defence when they face Arsenal on Sunday at the Emirates

The Blues kickstart their title defence when they face Arsenal on Sunday at the Emirates

‘It is always like this when you win [the league], the next time will be even tougher because there’s nothing other teams want more than to beat Chelsea.

‘So it means that we have to be even more focused. We have to be even better and we have to develop. And I believe we will be able to defend the title.

‘It’s always difficult to know who could be challengers when it’s a new season with new signings and new coaches coming in. 

‘Obviously, it’s often been Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea who were in the top three but now Everton have made a lot of signings again this year. 

‘So, there are still a lot of question marks over the teams who will be fighting for the top spot. But I think top five, we have this now.’

The new campaign heralds the return of fans to the WSL after the Blues faithful missed watching their team enjoy a wildly successful season, not only clinching the title but also the Community Shield and Continental League Cup. 

Chelsea will face tough challenges from Man City, Arsenal and Everton in their WSL pursuit

Chelsea will face tough challenges from Man City, Arsenal and Everton in their WSL pursuit

Chelsea had set a WSL record for successive unbeaten matches- going 33 games without loss

Chelsea had set a WSL record for successive unbeaten matches- going 33 games without loss

Kingsmeadow opened its turnstiles to fans for the first time since December 2020 in Chelsea’s pre-season win over Aston Villa in August. 

The Blues sold all of their season tickets for the first time ever this summer with full allocation at Kingsmeadow selling out in under two weeks following last season’s success. 

And, after a taste of full stands, Harder can’t wait to welcome the atmosphere to the 2021-22 campaign. 

‘It didn’t even seem like a friendly game,’ the forward claimed. ‘When we were playing with the fans back it almost felt like a final. 

‘It was amazing to have them back and to get into the game and just give you some extra energy.

‘You want to share the moments together with the fans that you’re having on the pitch, both the good and the bad ones. 

‘The moment when we reached the Champions League final by beating Bayern Munich would have been amazing to share with the fans in person. So I hope there will be more moments next season to share with the fans.

‘They will help us for sure. They will give us that extra energy on the pitch. It will just be amazing to not play with empty stands, but have people there.’ 

Chelsea have sold all of their season tickets for the first time ever ahead of 2021-22 campaign

Chelsea have sold all of their season tickets for the first time ever ahead of 2021-22 campaign

Chelsea made history when they signed Harder from Wolfsburg for a reported excess of £250,000 last summer, making her the most expensive women’s transfer of all time. 

The 28-year-old linked up with Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby to form an unstoppable attacking trio, bagging 46 goals between them. 

However, eyes will be on this summer’s new arrivals forward Lauren James and defender Aniek Nouwen. 

Chelsea made history with Harder, making her the most expensive women's transfer of all time

Chelsea made history with Harder, making her the most expensive women’s transfer of all time

James may not start immediately given Hayes's plethora of attacking options

Harder is impressed with Nouwen's calmness on the ball

Harder is excited to play alongside new signings Lauren James (left) and Aniek Nouwen (right)

While James may not start immediately given Hayes’s plethora of attacking options, there is high expectation for the 19-year-old who impressed at Manchester United. 

‘Lauren James, she’s a huge talent and she’s only 19, but she can do something in front of goal that not many can do and so it’s really exciting to have her on the team,’ Harder said of her new team-mate. 

‘Aniek [Nouwen] also is a player who is really calm on the ball,’ she added.

‘She’s also a young player who will give a lot to the team during the season and seasons ahead. She’s a player who is really good with the ball at her feet.’

Watch Heineken®’s latest announcement video here sharing three more reasons to cheer, having extended its already expansive footprint in motorsport and football with three exciting new partnerships – UEFA Women’s Champions League, UEFA Women’s European Championship & W Series. 

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