Chelsea goalkeeper Carly Telford is relishing playing their WSL opener at Stamford Bridge

Playing Chelsea’s opening Women’s Super League fixture at Stamford Bridge will be “unbelievable”, says Blues and England goalkeeper Carly Telford.

Chelsea play Tottenham at the stadium on Sunday, 8 September, while Manchester City play Manchester United at Etihad Stadium the previous day.

The move is aimed at building on the increased interest in women’s football due to the World Cup.

The Lionesses are at Wimbledon on Tuesday, sitting in the Royal Box.

Supporters can claim up to four free tickets for the London derby, with Chelsea urging fans to only order them if they are sure they can attend as they are anticipating a full house.

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Telford, 32, told BBC Sport. “We want to see as many people there as possible. There is no worse feeling than when you walk out and see a lot of empty seats and there is not a lot of atmosphere.

“What we want, and what Chelsea have done with the free tickets, is to expose it to as many people as possible.”

Chelsea usually play eight miles away from Stamford Bridge at the 5,000-capacity Kingsmeadow they share with League One side AFC Wimbledon.

“For us, it’s the opportunity to play at one of the biggest stadiums in the world,” Telford added.

“All together, I think they are doing it the right way, I just hope that once we have had this free one, hopefully next time we can charge a bit of money for the tickets and see if people are really interested in women’s football.”

‘It’s going to be great – if it’s full’

Manchester United defender Abbie McManus, who signed from Manchester City in May, said playing at the 55,000-capacity Etihad Stadium would be “great”, as long as it is full.

City usually play their home games at Academy Stadium, which holds 7,000, while United – playing their first season in the women’s top flight – host games at the 12,000-capacity Leigh Sports Village.

“I can’t wait, it’s going to be a Manchester derby, I’m a Mancunian myself so I’m excited for it,” the 26-year-old told BBC Sport.

“I’m happy I’m in the right colours because I’ve supported United since I was a child. Being a City player for 12 years is also important to me but I’m just glad I’m in the right colours for this derby.

“It’s going to be great, but it depends if it is full. Are there going to be a lot there or is it just going to be the small amount we normally have?

“We are thankful for them, but after the World Cup we hope we have grown the game and want to fill the stadiums.”

‘You’re the goalkeeper!’ – impact back home

England’s semi-final defeat by eventual tournament winners USA was watched by a peak television audience of 11.7 million on the BBC – a new record for women’s football in the UK.

But Telford said the Lionesses did not realise the impact they were having back home.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t come away with a medal,” Telford said. “But for us, we didn’t realise the story we were telling as we were going through the tournament and how many people were getting on board with it.

“I went and got my hair done yesterday and the lady who was getting her hair washed next to me said ‘Oh my god, you’re the goalkeeper!’.

“I didn’t in my wildest dreams expect that. But she was telling me how her family had watched, there was no-one out on the streets when the games were on.

“It was unbelievable for us to have had that effect. I am immensely proud of what we have done. If we can get bums on seats and really change people’s perspectives, I think our job is done.”

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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