EMMA HAYES spoke of her joy at watching AC Milan during childhood ahead of Chelsea’s Women’s Champions League clash with Juventus.
And the Blues chief – who is half-Italian – is looking forward to her team’s test against a side coached by ex-Gunners chief Joe Montemurro.
Reflecting on her admiration of the Italian game, Hayes, 44, said: “I think Italians teams are notorious for having an unbelievable understanding of what it takes to win matches.
“I have an Italian father and I have huge respect for Italian football.
“I grew up with AC Milan in my house and watching the late 80s and 1990s group with [Franco] Baresi, [Mauro] Tassotti, [Paolo] Maldini and [Marco] Van Basten. Italy is the home of brilliant defending.”
The WSL champs will take on an in-form Juventus outfit who are currently second in Italy’s top-flight behind Sassuolo.
They have won their first six games in the Serie A Women’s division.
Montemurro’s players are currently top of the group after their 3-0 defeat of Swiss club Servette with the Blues lying in third.
Hayes added: “Juventus are a team that I have watched over the last few years.
“I had a big interest when Eni [Aluko] was playing there and followed the team when Eni joined and watched their stature grow in Italian football.
“I know with Joe’s experience they have a coach with a pedigree of working with top players.
“This will be as tough a task as the one we faced against Wolfsburg.”
Montemurro’s Juve aces have set a new Serie A Women’s record of 30 consecutive wins in the division.
The Turin outfit come into this game off the back of a 2-0 win against Napoli in Italy’s top tier.
But in Europe, Montemuro, who left Arsenal at the end of last season, sees Chelsea and Barcelona as the yardstick for clubs to measure themselves against.
I’m so proud of the fact that our team has produced more Ballon d’Or nominees than any other side
The 52-year-old told BBC Sport: “Chelsea are one of the best organisations in world football, both men’s and women’s, their expenditure is well beyond what we could dream of.
“The players they have are of world-class status, and they are playing in a tough league.
“We want to be on this stage and be competing against the best. The more we can have these moments and these experiences, the better we will be.”
Chelsea’s trip to Juventus Stadium comes days after five of the club’s squad made the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Ballon d’Or awards.
Fran Kirby, Jessie Fleming, Magda Eriksson, Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr are among seven WSL stars in contention for the award.
Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema and Manchester City’s Ellen White make up the other names from England’s top-flight clubs on the shortlist.
Hayes said: “I’m so proud of the fact that our team has produced more Ballon d’Or nominees than any other side.
“They’re brilliant women who are exemplary at what they do and I’m glad to see them getting recognised for that and nominated.”