Chelsea FC Women manager Emma Hayes has challenged her players to keep improving on the standards being set ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
Manchester United recently hosted the Blues in the semi-final of the Continental Tyres League Cup where we progressed to the final for the first time in our history thanks to a second-half strike from Maren Mjelde who netted the only goal of the encounter.
It was a game where the Blues had to dig deep to edge the victory against a well-disciplined United team and a stark contrast to the visit of West Ham in the league last weekend, when Hayes’s side recorded an 8-0 win against the Hammers – our biggest victory this term.
The Blues remain unbeaten in all competitions this season and Hayes wants her players to continue to raise their performance levels against Casey Stoney’s Red Devils this weekend.
‘The league campaign is very different to a cup competition and although we are unbeaten in all this season, it’s a crucial period of the season,’ Hayes highlights.
‘The levels of consistency in performance and the application of everything that’s been worked on in the training ground both on and off the pitch really comes into play.
‘Our team, our squad and our goals are all aligned and it is so important at this stage of the season that everybody in our group is collectively pushing, because these are the games that will make the difference about where we are going to finish in the league.
‘It’s important to just focus on the process, not the outcome, and the challenge for the players is can we consistently sustain the levels whilst raising the bar. The challenge to the squad is that I want to see it – I want to see what our next level is against United and I want to see what we are truly capable of.'
Hayes considers Manchester United to be the best team defensively we have encountered this term and praised the good work former Chelsea player Stoney is doing in her first season in the top flight.
‘I respect Manchester United and Casey Stoney, she’s done an incredible job with that young group and we are going to have to be at our very best, and the best has to be better than we have shown at any other point this season if we are to win the game.
'We’re playing a Manchester United team that are brilliant defensively. They don’t commit a lot of numbers forward because their defensive organisation is so strong and they are the toughest team for us to break down so far this season, so we really have to work for a goal against them.’
The Chelsea manager also thanked the Blues faithful for their tremendous ongoing support to her players and encourages them all to book a seat on the subsidised coaches that are being run for our top of the table clash against Manchester City on Sunday 23 February and for our Conti Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday 29 February.
‘I spoke to Guy Laurence, Chelsea’s CEO, and I asked him if we could support buses to the Manchester City trip and the Conti Cup final to help the fans out.
‘Our fans have been so supportive towards us and I hope we can fill those buses because the growing away support means absolutely everything to the players.’
Chelsea's next home game is on Wednesday 12 February against Birmingham City in the WSL, followed by a visit from Liverpool for the fifth round of the Women's FA Cup. Tickets are priced at £9 for adults and £1 for juniors and seniors.