Chelsea FC Women manager Emma Hayes answered questions from the media at Cobham via Zoom this afternoon ahead of our Champions League quarter-final first leg tie against Wolfsburg.
On Wednesday, Hayes and her Chelsea side come up against Wolfsburg for the seventh time in the European competition, with our last meeting three years ago at the semi-final stage. The Chelsea manager has spoken about what is needed to overcome the German giants and progress further on the European stage.
‘Six teams could win this easily, I don’t think there is one favourite over another,’ Hayes said about this season's competition overall.
‘At this stage it’s all about needing experience, discipline and you need all of your nous because when you play outside of a domestic game there’s so many other factors involved.
‘Different refereeing, different type of presses, different types of build ups that you face in terms of what the opponent does, so you have to manage all of the stresses and that takes time to develop.
‘I’ve got a lot of experience in my team too and I’m looking forward to watching them cope and play against a team that has won every time in the biggest games against us, and I’m extremely curious to see how far we’ve progressed in the three years.
‘They are a top team, they are in finals regularly, they have been champions year on year, they are a phenomenal team.
‘Anybody getting lulled into thinking this a different Wolfsburg are fooled, this is a Wolfsburg team that have as much quality as I’ve ever seen in them and I’m sure they will be confident given their recent history against us.’
On Wednesday, Pernille Harder could face her former club where she spent three-and-a-half years. The Danish attacking player won the domestic Double with Wolfsburg on four occasions and also captained the German team to last year’s Champions League final.
While Harder may know our opposition better than anyone else, which could be seen as a slight advantage, Hayes emphasised it will be a collective effort from the squad.
‘We all know that Pernille is a world-class player who is also playing in a world-class team,’ Hayes noted.
‘We have attacking talents that go beyond Pernille, we have players in a really good space who are in top form. The realities are that the result is non dependant on any one player, it’s dependant on the whole and Pernille is part of that whole.
‘If we are to progress beyond this stage against a team we have not won against on those past occasions, then it’s what we do as a collective effort that is going to make the difference but of course she’s a top player.’
The Chelsea boss confirmed she has a fully fit squad to select from other than Bethany England who suffered a concussion in our round of 16 second-leg tie against Atletico Madrid, and of course Maren Mjelde who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery last week.
‘Beth is the only absentee going into Wednesday, she just needs a little bit more time,’ Hayes told the media. ‘The neurologist felt that with the impact she had to her head that her safety comes first.
‘She won’t be available for this game but she’s training with the group in a non-contact way, we just have to do the right thing by her first.’
Today marks a big day in women’s football in England as the FA announced a three-year deal with the BBC and Sky Sports for the broadcast rights to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. The multi-million pound agreement means Sky Sports will show up to 44 matches across their channels and the BBC have committed to broadcasting 22 games on mainstream television.
Hayes, who is a huge advocate for the growth of the women’s game, shared her thoughts on the record breaking agreement.
‘It’s a day that everybody has worked really hard towards, this isn’t one person, one club or the Football Association alone, this is the sport and everybody involved with the sport both on the pitch and off the pitch.
‘They’ve driven a new standard and the fact that it’s a record deal worldwide just shows how much we are putting our money where our mouth is and valuing a women’s game that has demonstrated time and time again that it’s a product people want to watch.
‘I’m delighted that we are with both Sky and BBC, two amazing spaces for us to get prime-time regular slots.
‘I’ve been behind driving this with the rest of the people involved in the women’s game from the onset and huge credit for the FA for brokering that and also to the clubs across the country for the investment they are making without revenue coming in first, so it really is a big day for women’s football.'
The Szusza Ferenc Stadium in Budapest, Hungary, is where both fixtures will be staged due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The first leg on Wednesday kicks off at 4pm UK time and the second leg will be on Wednesday 31 March and has a 1pm kick-off.
The game can be viewed on live on this website, the 5th Stand app and our YouTube channel apart from in the UK (where BT Sport are showing the game live), Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Mexico, Portugal, Sweden, Norway and Australia.