Chelsea are back in action on Sunday when Arsenal stand in the way of us winning the Women’s FA Cup for the third time in our history. Manager Emma Hayes says the game has special significance.
The delayed 2021 FA Cup final between the top-two sides in the Women’s Super League marks the 50th anniversary of the competition and Hayes says the tie at Wembley highlights just how far the game has developed.
‘This is about everybody in the game,’ Hayes said. ‘It’s a coming together of a women’s game that has grown to an amazing level and one we will keep building on.
‘It will be a great final with two great teams and quality on show. It’s a great venue and, of course, I want to win but this game is about something much bigger.
‘This is great for those who have been involved in the women’s game from the onset. This is the showpiece event. It’s two fabulous teams vying to win, but the FA Cup is about the history and it’s about making more history.
‘It’s recognition of everyone that has come before. It is a special date in the calendar.
‘I salute every single one of the women that have provided the opportunities and pathway and have sacrificed so much so the game can be where it is.
‘It is a celebration of women’s football.’
We are aiming to win the FA Cup for the third time in our history, following Wembley victories over Notts County in 2015 and Sunday’s opponents in 2018.
Cup success in the seventh successive Cup final to be played at Wembley would also clinch a domestic treble from last season, but Hayes said it has been challenging trying to prepare to face our London rivals.
Hayes: ‘It’s weird coming off the back of an international break but I don’t really put a different energy into it than a normal game.
‘The players have been travelling all over the world so I won’t pick the team until the day before. They are weird circumstances but I am very excited about it.’
She is also convinced our sole defeat this season means very little, coming as it did at the hands of Arsenal in September in our WSL opener.
However, she is well aware of their quality.
‘That game was so long ago,’ Hayes added. ‘I think of the number of games we have played since then and the evolution of our team and we have got better in every area. It was the first game of the season and we had only been together for eight sessions.
‘But they are top of the league for a reason; they are fulfilling their potential. They have world class-players and deserve to be where they are.’
Our squad will be boosted by the return of striker Pernille Harder and defender Aniek Nouwen after injury, while in-form Australia striker Sam Kerr is ‘fit and ready to go’ despite all the travelling during the international break.
‘Pernille is fit to be involved,’ Hayes confirmed. ‘It’s great Aniek is back as well. Both of those are big additions to our team and we have six games in three days so we will need everybody. We need an impact from the bench.’
But defender Maren Mjelde is not likely to feature after recently returning from a serious knee injury.
‘We still need to be careful with Maren,’ Hayes added. ‘She had an almost career-ending injury. We will continue to bring her back slowly. She still needs a little bit more time. Maren for the long term is far more valuable than Maren immediately. I don’t expect Maren to feature this weekend.’
The game is live on BT Sport, BBC1, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website. Coverage starts at 1:30pm.
As always, you can follow the game via Chelsea Women’s social media channels. There will be live commentary on our Twitter page and regular updates on Facebook and Instagram. Simply search ‘ChelseaFCW' on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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