Ahead of Chelsea FC Women’s Champions League round of 32 second-leg tie against Benfica, Emma Hayes faced the media for a press conference on the eve of hosting the Portuguese side at Kingsmeadow…
While addressing the media via Zoom at Cobham this afternoon, Hayes spoke about our 5-0 first-leg triumph and Chelsea’s chances of reaching the next round of the European competition.
The Chelsea boss also answered questions on her and Pernille Harder being among the final nominees for The Best FIFA Football Awards, the Christmas break and Gerard Houllier.
Hayes anticipates a different type of game in tomorrow’s second-leg tie and spoke about her hopes of reaching the last-16
‘I was really happy with the first leg, I was happy with the intention of the team. I thought our quality in front of goal was exceptional, I rewarded a lot of the players by giving them chances in the second half because I know it’s a long season and I need to keep everybody ticking along.
‘I know it will be a different game in the second leg, they [Benfica] have nothing to lose and when you play a team that have nothing to lose it’s always a different game so we have to be conscious of that.
‘We have to just take one game at a time, we’ve got to get through Benfica and then play Tottenham.
‘Then we need a little break mentally so we can face what the Champions League will hold if we manage to come through this round and something we need to take care of.’
Hayes commented on being in the final three for The Best Women’s Coach award and spoke highly of her player Harder who is in the running for The Best Women’s Player honour
‘To be amongst great company knowing where I came from, knowing how hard I’ve worked, I’m really proud of myself. I’m not going to be shy about this, I feel like I’ve just won an Oscar.
‘I’m just grateful to be nominated, I don’t expect to win it, I’m all about winning the biggest prizes and we haven’t won the biggest prize yet. I need to focus and putting everything I can into that [Champions League].
‘Well I think it’s important to note that we as a football club can’t take any of the credit for what has put Pernille in the position she’s in.
‘What I know about the best and I’ve coached a lot of top players in my career is that they have an unbelievable level of attention to detail and the best always do it on the training pitch day in, day out and she’s exceptional in training.
‘In the short time she’s been here, she’s been a real joy to coach because she wants to be so involved technically to help the team to go to another level.
‘I haven’t wanted to talk about her publicly because I wanted her to settle in but with this award I think it’s fitting for me to say that I’m so grateful she’s here and I’m so looking forward to our future and she’s deserves everything that she’s been recommended for.’
Hayes confirms that her squad will return home to their families throughout the Christmas period
‘I’ve let them all go home, I value their wellness and I think for us it’s important to support the players to do that.
‘We’ve had to create some schedules for some different players but everybody in this environment is supportive of that so I’m happy for them to go and see their families, I know they miss them.
‘I’m grateful on one level that I’m at work and I know the whole squad and staff will look forward to the break because we have been going non-stop since July.
‘I think in this profession you can’t have too long off because it takes a while to build the levels of intensity safely with the players and we’ve worked so hard to keep our players on the pitch – I want to make sure they have a nice break but not too long.
‘Then we will get back out here for what will be an extremely big games programme after Christmas.’
Following the sad news of the passing of Gerard Houllier, Hayes paid tribute to the former Liverpool and Lyon boss.
‘Well first of all, what a wonderful man he was. Reading some of the statements from the last few days of players who played for him shows some of the things you need to have to do this job and he went above and beyond for his players.
‘Not only to inspire them to win but to do the right things throughout their professional careers and that really stood out for me.
‘It’s been well documented his contributions to the women’s game and I know that he was a big fan of the women’s game. His contributions and his technical insight for Lyon I’m sure would have provided a lot for them and he deserves all the respect from all of us for his contributions.’