Chelsea FC Women boss Emma Hayes spoke to the media ahead of Sunday’s Vitality Women’s FA Cup quarter-final clash against Birmingham City.
The Blues met Darren Carter’s side at the same stage of the competition in 2020/21 and Hayes is expecting a tough test.
Speaking at Cobham, Hayes said: ‘Organisationally they’ve been tougher to beat. Maybe a little unfortunate some of the time, maybe because they don’t have the depth in quality that everybody else has but on their day, they’ve proven already that they can score goals and pull out results against top teams so I’m mindful of that.
‘I expect them to have 11 players behind the ball. I expect them to sit deep and frustrate us and do that type of thing. For us, our standards have to be at the highest end because when you play these types of games…they don’t give you a lot of room.
‘You’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to probe, you’ve got to be very clever with your movement and decision making. So, I expect it to be a tough game for that reason.
‘It gives them a little bit of freedom; they don’t have the weight of the league. I expect them to come to our place and play with a lot more freedom than they would have if they had to play for a point for example.’
The Blues have had to deal with a relentless run of fixtures this month, with Sunday’s clash against Birmingham our fifth game in March.
On the run of games, the boss added: ‘When you’ve got so many games back-to-back, sometimes it’s easier, it keeps the momentum going. You don’t have a lot of time to think, you just play, recover, go again and we’re in the middle of that spell.
‘Especially getting players back from injury, that’s been pivotal for us. Training on Tuesday was the best it’d been for quite some time, today was even better because of the depth we’ve got back in.
‘I don’t think our legs are tired, I think the opposite. I feel like we’ve got another level in us at the minute, that’s the one thing I’m noticing especially the last two games, we’ve got another gear in us.
‘Maybe the win against Villa did that, but the last two team training sessions I’ve been so impressed with how the team have recovered after the game. We’re in the final stretch, we know how to be in this position, we’re focused on our task and that’s giving everyone loads of energy, we know it’s in our control.’
‘We just need to win, that’s it. Our focus is on winning and who gets the goals, how we do that is less relevant. It’s all about getting the job done and as I said we’re in the business end of the season and we know how to do this.
‘Yes, we take one game at a time but we feel strong in ourselves.’
Maren Mjelde and club captain Magdalena Eriksson were both brought on as second-half substitutes against Everton on Wednesday evening. Hayes said the depth in squad is key as we enter the latter half of the season.
‘I did feel it was the right opportunity for Magda and for Maren especially with a comfortable lead. It is lovely to have them back, they’re two amazing human beings and great leaders in here and they’ve been sorely missed in this period. Having them back, I just feel they’ve raised the bar and the environment again which is just what we needed, it’s really good timing for them to be back.’
When asked if preparations were any different for Sunday’s game, Hayes exclaimed: ‘We practised penalties!’
With ticket sales for supporters affected by sanctions imposed on the club, Hayes gave her thoughts on the restriction on our fans attending games.
‘We’d love to have fans involved, that’s something I hope the government can sort through because I don’t think we need to penalise the fans for that but I totally understand that they want to make sure the funds are going into some neutral place.
‘For us, we just get on with our daily life. It hasn’t affected what we do daily. We’re still able to train, we’re still able to play games, we’re still able to travel. So, in terms of what’s different for us, nothing really.
‘Wednesday just felt like business as usual and we feel that way. Of course, we expect the questions every day about it but for us internally because nothing’s changed, nothing’s impacting us, we’re just getting on with it.’
Sunday’s game against Birmingham kicks off at 2pm and will be streamed live on the FA Player.