In Focus: James can inspire Blues to European revival at Camp Nou
Lauren James may hold the key to Chelsea's hopes of overturning their Women's Champions League semi-final deficit against Barcelona tonight.
The Blues head to the Camp Nou trailing 1-0 courtesy of Caroline Graham Hansen's early stunner in the first leg on Saturday.
England forward James, 21, did not make Emma Hayes' starting XI at Stamford Bridge but was introduced at half-time as the Women's Super League champions chased the game.
Ahead of the second leg, we look at whether it is the right time to unleash James from the start.
James has enjoyed an outstanding breakthrough season for club and country.
Highly rated in the women's game for some time, injuries had prevented the former Arsenal and Manchester United youngster from delivering on her undoubted promise.
With explosive pace, impressive ability on the ball and clinical finishing, James has been a standout star in Hayes' side, helping herself to seven goals and five assists.
She is making strides in the national team too, winning her first eight caps for the Lionesses and scoring her first international goal against South Korea in February.
Delivering on her promise
You would be hard pressed to find a fellow player who does not regard James as one of football's most exciting talents.
Barca defender and Lionesses team-mate Lucy Bronze, who is ruled out of tonight's clash, said after James' first England goal: "Everyone knows the quality that LJ's got.
"Technically she's probably one of the best there is.
"It's crazy that she's so young because this is the player that everyone has been talking about for five years now. Everyone has been waiting for this superstar and it's exciting to be here now."
Having started four of Chelsea's previous five games — including both legs of the quarter-final win over Lyon — it was somewhat of a surprise to see James' name absent from the XI.
The Blues were dominated by the Blaugrana for much of the encounter, having just a 30% share of possession and taking just six shots compared to the visitors' 16.
Hayes was quick to defend her decision to leave their deadly forward out, indicating the 5-3-1-1 formation was a way of stifling Barca's threat.
The Blues boss said: "[Wing-back] isn't where Lauren's strengths are going to be.
"The decision was the right decision. Even in the second half Lauren brought a threat, but there is so much work to do without the ball because they are so good in possession."
While second best in the first leg, the one-goal deficit means Chelsea are still well in with a chance of progressing to the final in Eindhoven.
Given the Blues were not breached after Graham Hansen's third-minute strike, Hayes may feel a similar counter-attacking approach gives them the best chance at the Camp Nou.
But the decorated Blues boss may feel James should come in to partner Sam Kerr in attack, switching Guro Reiten to a deeper position.
The Blues will be under no illusions about the mountain they have to climb in their pursuit of European glory.
If James can inspire a second-leg turnaround against the 2020-21 European champions, it will propel her burgeoning reputation to an exciting new level.