Match Preview

Hayes previews WSL opener against Arsenal

Emma Hayes says her players are raring to go ahead of our Barclays FA Women’s Super League opener on Sunday, but the Chelsea boss expects a tough battle against Arsenal.

The Blues begin our WSL title defence with a trip to face our London rivals in a clash that will take place at The Emirates.

Speaking in a press conference earlier today, Hayes admitted she was delighted with her players during pre-season and believes the squad are ready for the new campaign.

‘I’ve really enjoyed pre-season,’ said Hayes. ‘We’ve had to integrate two groups: those who have been away at the Olympics and those who have been here, and that transition has been really nice.

‘Covid was tough last year so I want to enjoy what I’m doing, enjoy the players and enjoy the privileged position I’m in.

‘I’m raring to go and I know the players are too. This is a new season with new opportunities, and we look forward to taking them.’

Chelsea have enjoyed plenty of success in previous encounters with Arsenal, winning four of our last five WSL meetings with the Gunners, but Hayes is wary of the threat we will face on Sunday.

Hayes added: ‘Arsenal have history of great teams and winning long before I was the manager of Chelsea. They have always stood tall across Europe and in this country and they have done in every season that I have been here. Our games have always been an incredible battle and I don’t expect Sunday to be any different.

‘It’s a new manager, he’s got new ideas and a lot of new players to integrate. I don’t have a lot of new players to integrate but I haven’t had the same level of time with them that’s he’s had.

‘Them playing European games have helped them to prepare going into the season but I’m the sort of person to manage whatever situation we have and I’m pretty sure we will present ourselves in the best possible way on Sunday.’

Our clash with Arsenal will see the return of our travelling fans, while new assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby will also be in attendance. Hayes is delighted to have them both on board to support her players.

She said: ‘Tanya has got great experience, already with Paul [Green], Stuart [Searle], Denise [Reddy], I’ve got great assistants.

‘Tanya in her time across many different clubs has built upon a good playing career and she will really help to support me with the players both on and off the pitch. I’m excited to work with her.

When asked about the return of fans, Hayes said: 'I’m looking forward to seeing our fans. I know how much the team mean to them and how much they’ve missed being apart from the team.

'We welcome them back this Sunday and look forward to another epic game between two fantastic teams.’

Sunday’s game kicks off at 12.30pm and will be available to watch live on Sky Sports Main Event.

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