Emma Hayes hoping the force is with Chelsea after being drawn against Ajax

Chelsea players celebrate their fourth goal in their win against Paris FC last month. The victory sealed an undefeated Champions League group stage campaign.Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

On the day that Chelsea were drawn to play the Eredivisie champions, Ajax, in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League, Emma Hayes has revealed how her love of Star Wars is helping her navigate her final season at the club.

Chelsea’s manager, who will become head coach of the US women’s national team at the end of the season, was asked at a press conference on Tuesday if her impending departure was giving her extra energy. “To be honest with you The Force Awakens, that gave me a lot of inspiration last night,” said a smiling Hayes. “And I’m certain the resistance continue to inspire, and we can keep at bay that evil empire. And for now, all I’m thinking about is I need to get on to The Mandalorian.”

Hayes, who has been watching the films with her five-year-old son, went on to compare the franchise with football management: “[The] essence of the message [is] always have skilled finishers like the Jedi knights, have the ability to deliver a fatal hit into the Death Star.”

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She signed off from the press conference, being held ahead of Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final with ­Sunderland, by saying “force be with you” to reporters.

Chelsea will need all the help they can get after a tough Champions League draw. Should they overcome Ajax they will face the Champions League holders, Barcelona, or Norway’s SK Brann in the semi-finals. Barcelona beat Chelsea 2-1 on aggregate to reach last season’s final.

Hayes’ side finished top of Group D with four wins and two draws from their six fixtures in a season in which they are hoping to send their departing manager off on a high.

Ajax, meanwhile, beat Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Roma at home and earned a 1-1 draw in Munich to earn progression from Group C.

Elsewhere in Tuesday’s draw, Benfica were drawn against the eight-time Champions League winners Lyon while BK Hacken were pitted against PSG.

The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played on 19-20 March with the second the following week on 27-28 March. Chelsea travel to the Netherlands for the first leg before hosting Ajax in the return. Chelsea also have a trio of London derbies around the last-eight tie, hosting Arsenal the weekend prior to the first leg, with a trip to West Ham sandwiched between the two Champions League matches and an away game at Tottenham on the weekend after the second leg.

Chelsea are able to register January recruits Nathalie Björn and Mayra Ramírez for the knockout stages – the former Everton defender and the Levante forward were unavailable for the final group game against Paris FC.


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