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10 months after ACL tear, Alexia Putellas returns in Barça's biggest match of the season

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes probably had to deliver the most difficult team talk of her career after training on Wednesday. Looking ahead to tomorrow's Champions League semifinal second leg against Barcelona, she had to convince her team to forget about Caroline Graham Hansen's exceptional strike at Stamford Bridge, giving Barça a 1-0 advantage, then she had to prepare her team for the vociferous cauldron of noise they're about to face inside the Camp Nou.

Then, and maybe saying this last part under her breath and very quietly so as not to trigger total panic, Hayes had to inform her team that Barcelona's two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas had been fully medically cleared to return to action on Thursday. 

"But we've still got Sam Kerr!" is what I would've yelled at the end to get everyone cheering. 

The return of Putellas will be an unwelcome sight for Chelsea, but for everyone else with interest in the women's game the timing couldn't be better with the World Cup just 85 days away.

The 29-year-old has been out nearly 10 months after rupturing her ACL last July directly before the Euros. Putellas' last competitive match was actually Barça's UWCL final defeat to Lyon (she scored her side's lone goal).

The most likely scenario on Thursday is Putellas making her return from the bench. After her injury, Barcelona spent $470K (a record fee) on getting Keira Walsh from Manchester City, and she's played alongside Patri Guijarro and the in-form Aitana Bonmatí in Barça's midfield three.

Don't miss all the action unfold (for free!) at 12:45 p.m. ET on the DAZN YouTube channel.

The winner advances to play Arsenal or Wolfsburg (2-2 on aggregate) on June 3 at Philips Stadion in Eindhoven.  

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