Playing at Stamford Bridge is a great opportunity and shows how far women’s football has come

Claire Rafferty of Chelsea Ladies

In her latest West London Sport column, England and Chelsea Ladies defender Claire Rafferty discusses the WSL title run-in, playing at Stamford Bridge and dealing with irritating injuries.

Hi and welcome to my latest column.

Injury niggles

After the injuries I have had to my knee over the years, I am just a bit more aware, as it can be a bit susceptible to problems because the muscles have to work a bit harder. Managing things has been a bit of a learning curve for us all but it’s something that is ongoing and seems to be working.

I have had the odd niggle and strain this season and that has meant a bit more time out than I would have liked, but there hasn’t been anything serious.

The pace of the game has quickened in the last couple of years as well so it’s always a matter of adapting and making sure I am properly rested when I need to be.

But overall things have been going pretty well. There were times that I never thought I would play again and I really had doubts, but I have played at the World Cup, won the league and a cup final.

The big stage for the biggest stage

Playing our home Champions League match against Wolfsburg at Stamford Bridge is a fantastic opportunity – it just goes to show how much the game has grown.

We lost to them last season but were not too far away and sometimes it just comes down to experience.

They are a very, very strong team but it will be early in their season so they may not be as sharp this time around.

Last season I scored an own goal early in the first game and then one in the second match too – that will not be happening again! We had a bit of bad luck in the first game but we had some good spells in the match and it could have gone either way.

In the second game you could tell we were at the end of our season and it ended up looking quite comfortable for them with a 4-1 aggregate win, but we were not that far away and learned a lot.

I think the bigger pitch will really help our game. It will help all our attacking players with a bit more space out wide and Fran Kirby could be back as well, which would be a huge boost.

We want to play them again; we want to test ourselves. You have to beat the best to progress and they made the final last season.

Pushing Man City all the way

The league title is out of our hands and we are very aware of that but we must pile on the pressure and make sure it goes down to the final game.

And even if our best is not good enough we have to make sure we get second place at least. It is so important to get European football again.

It’s been great for the league that it’s been so close and exciting and we want to make sure it stays like that for as long as possible. And you never know what could happen on the final day if we beat Manchester City in our penultimate game.

Q & A

We had a question-and-answer session at Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago [with Eni Aluko, Fran Kirby, Katie Chapman and manager Emma Hayes] and it’s great to mix with the fans. We got some really interesting questions, not just the ones about how much we earn!

There is more understanding and knowledge about the women’s game and anything we can do to help spread awareness even more is great.

We also got asked to describe Emma in one word and had to be pretty careful how we answered that. She didn’t come out of it too bad, and being called bossy makes sense because she is in charge! She was also described as visionary so it was pretty balanced.

Claire Rafferty will be continuing her regular column for West London Sport throughout the 2016 season.

Chelsea Ladies face Manchester City in a crucial WSL match at the on Sunday, 25 September, at the Academy Stadium. Ticket information in available at Chelsea’s official website.