Hayes: I’m happy we’re at home

Chelsea FC Women face West Ham in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League on Wednesday and boss Emma Hayes believes the Blues can keep improving.

Chelsea go into the fixture following a goalless draw against Brighton & Hove Albion in the league on Sunday as we look to get our first three points of 2022.

Speaking to the media at Cobham this afternoon, Hayes was pleased with the training session this morning.

She said: ‘I thought the team had a great session, they looked great. I know we’ve only had two days to recover from the last one but I’m just feeling grateful today!

‘We need to control what we can control, focus on the players that are in here, that are fit and healthy. We have to get on with what we have and it’s a small group, it will remain a small group and as a result of that we’re developing some quality relationships in training and in games because we have such few numbers.’

It’s the second time in seven days that Hayes’ side will be facing West Ham, after beating the Irons 4-2 in the Continental Tyres League Cup quarter-final last week.

A hat-trick from Pernille Harder and a header from Erin Cuthbert ensured the Blues qualified for the semi-final, where we will face Manchester United at home.

‘I had a good chat with Olli [Harder] last week, what a great guy,' said Hayes. 'I thought last week for 45 minutes you couldn’t separate the two teams, there wasn’t anything between us. The quality and class in the second half showed within the goals.

‘They’ve got everything to compete and I’m sure if he keeps adding bits of quality they will jump into that next category, I think he’s done an amazing job.’

Last week’s game against the Irons was the first time the Blues had been in action in over a month.

‘We needed 45 minutes, we were rusty,’ Hayes added.

The Blues have been without Sam Kerr and Ji So-Yun due to their participation in the Asia Cup, allowing Hayes to give minutes to a number of different players.

‘I get a chance to see a lot of players who haven’t had a lot of minutes so it’s nice to keep developing others and I learnt that I’m finding different positions for some of my players.

‘It’s a great opportunity for Aniek Nouwen, Niamh Charles, Jonna Andersson, Beth England. They have to impress, the pressure is always on in a place like ours. For us to play against Brighton, with the players we are missing, I thought we dominated. The team are not content with the result but they’re really content with how we’re playing at the minute, sometimes you can win games and not probably be at your best, okay, we didn’t win, but we didn’t lose. We haven’t played for a month and we’re still in a title race, and yet we haven’t been at our best.’

It’s the first home game of 2022 for the Blues and Hayes is relishing the chance to play in front of the Kingsmeadow crowd on Wednesday evening.

She said: ‘I’m happy we’re at home. Do I know they’re a difficult opponent? Do I know they’re extremely dangerous in transitions? They’re good from set-pieces? They’re good from wide areas? Yep, know all of those things. But we’re home, we’ve got our fans and I can’t wait to see them because it feels like an eternity that we’ve had any sort of real consistency.

On team news for Wednesday’s game, Hayes explained that Lauren James may make the team but will be unlikely to feature for the Blues.

‘Lauren James has had one session with us today, she may join the bench tomorrow but she’s not in a position to start let alone play 10 or 15 minutes but we’re so thin. I’m probably risking a little bit in that situation, but the group really needed an extra number. Hopefully she can get a little bit closer in the coming weeks to re-join the group on a more full-time basis.’

The club also announced the departure of Carly Telford to San Diego Wave on Monday evening and Hayes was full of praise for the Blues legend.

‘Carly has been an amazing human being that has contributed to so much when no one else is looking. The true testament of any player’s legacy is what other people say about them and I’m sure everybody has nothing but high praise. My personal feeling is especially since she lost her mum, as a mother, that’s always captured my heart. The work she’s done to heal herself as best she can, she deserves the opportunity I really couldn’t stand in her way.’

Telford had planned to say her goodbyes to Chelsea supporters at Wednesday evening’s game, however Hayes revealed the goalkeeper has tested positive for Covid-19 so will be unable to attend the fixture.

Wednesday’s game kicks off at 7pm UK time and can be viewed live on the BBC Red Button.

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