Hayes gives Kirby fitness update, discusses Cuthbert’s form; previews Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup final

Chelsea FC Women boss Emma Hayes predicts a tight game as the Blues take on Manchester City in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Her side faces Gareth Taylor’s at 2.30pm under the Wembley arch on Sunday, one day after the men’s team take on Liverpool in the same competition.

The final comes exactly a week after the Blues were crowned Barclays FA Women’s Super League champions for the third consecutive year. Speaking in a press conference at Cobham this afternoon, Hayes reflected on a memorable day at Kingsmeadow.

Hayes said: ‘It was phenomenal, it really was – to celebrate with the fans. I know we’ve had a lot of success, but there was something so special about Sunday that just reminded me of what we’ve built here, not just on the pitch, but off the pitch with the fans.

‘It was a fitting tribute to three outgoing players and a really dramatic day which was brilliant for the league, really good for the league. Nice to have another trophy in the bank.’

It’s set to be an exciting game on Sunday, a repeat of this year’s Continental Cup final line-up. Hayes revealed an update on team news, the boost that Fran Kirby will be available for selection.

‘Most of us would agree that there’s not a lot between the sides in both games. Last time we played City we were depleted, this week we’ve got a full-strength squad to pick from including Fran Kirby. So we’re going into the position in a much better place than we did for the Continental Cup final.’

On Kirby’s return, Hayes added: ‘She looked like she hadn’t even been away, she looked that good in training. It was nice to see a smile on her face and she’s participated in everything. She’s been in training all week so I’m over the moon to be honest.’

The Blues are eyeing up the domestic double and the boss discussed what pressure the team will be under this weekend.

‘I don’t think there’s any more or less pressure this week than there was a week ago, what I know is that there is a team that this second half of the season have been absolutely outstanding. The women’s game wins again on Sunday, hopefully with a record crowd and two amazing teams full of talent.’

More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday’s final and Hayes is looking forward to the fans creating a good atmosphere.

‘We have to be conscious that we should build these rivalries, we should build tension in the stadium between the teams, healthy tension of course. I do think it’s the way it’s going, you should have designated sections.’

On the challenges she expects City to pose, the boss said: ‘We’ve had to play with pressure of having to win every game to win the title so it’s been different pressures for different teams. I’m not saying you’re any more relaxed in that position but it’s a lot harder if you lose the title.

‘I’ve seen a team grow and grow and grow under Gareth Taylor this year and a team where they’ve come together in a difficult moment and recovered in a really tough moment.

‘They’ve got outstanding talent, particularly in Lauren Hemp - what a player, I love watching her play I really do, I’m excited for England in the summer. I hope she’s amazing in the summer and terrible on Sunday.’

Erin Cuthbert has been formidable for the Blues this season and Hayes heaped praise for our No.22, who was missing from the Conti Cup final due to injury.

‘You saw what we looked like in the Continental Cup without her, that’s how critical Erin is. I thought she was the player of the match on Sunday.

‘She was dominating, she took the game by the scruff of the neck. She’s had to wait her turn but that’s where she will remain, running the show for the team.

'She’s an unbelievable talent, she is becoming a real, real leader in the side. I thought City hadn’t beaten us in quite some time and they were due one, they deserved to beat us that day. I don’t think anyone in this room can call it.’

Sunday’s FA Cup final kicks off at 2:30pm and will be broadcast live on BBC One. Tickets are still on sale for Sunday’s final and can be purchased here.

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