Anita Asante thinks the next week of Chelsea Women’s season will be a great test for the squad, beginning with the first game of our FA Cup defence at Everton on Sunday.
As well as that huge match in Southport, which kicks off at 2pm, we’ve also got a Continental Tyres League Cup semi-final at home to Manchester City on Wednesday night, followed by a league fixture against the same opponents the following Sunday.
For Asante, who made her first WSL start of the season in the defeat against Birmingham last weekend, such weeks are a true test of a squad’s character, and she is relishing the opportunity of doing just that.
‘No pressure at all,’ was her response when asked about this potentially defining week in the campaign. ‘To be honest, this is a test, and this is what makes all great teams. To have that many games in quick succession could be a really good and positive thing, as it can allow us to build momentum.
‘But we’re just going to take one game at a time, then focus on the next one. We know it won’t be easy, but to defend championships and cups is really about that – being able to be at your best when everyone is out to get you.
‘There was a lot of character and fight in the team against Birmingham and we really went for it at the end, which showed how many winners – that’s the risk you take.
‘We leave it to the manager to decide how we approach every game, but we’ve got a lot of winners and we want to go for all the competitions that are left to play for. But we’ll take just take each match as it comes.’
For Asante, that means focusing on Everton first and foremost. Although we beat the Toffees comfortably at Kingsmeadow last month, our match at Southport earlier in the WSL campaign was a frustrating 0-0 draw.
‘We’re expecting another tough FA Cup game, but as a team we’ve transformed over the past few months,’ she added. ‘We’re a different team to when we met them earlier in the season and we’ve improved in a lot of areas, so it will definitely be a difficult game for them.’
And the positive thing about having so many matches in quick succession is that it should offer more playing opportunities for Neetz.
Having missed much of the past 12 months through injury, she’s been back involved over the past month or so and even scored her first Chelsea goal in the Continental Tyres League Cup win over Reading.
‘Because of the quality of this club, and all the competitions we’re involved in as a result of that, the squad is super important,’ she said.
‘There are a lot of games to compete in, therefore hopefully there will be more playing opportunities for me and other players in all those competitions. It will give us a better chance, hopefully to not just compete, but to win. Everything is possible. We just want to get the performances that get us the results we want.’
- Watch Chelsea FC Women take on Bristol City at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday 20 February. Tickets are available online and all supporters will pick up a free Chelsea FC scarf on the night.