Ahead of Sunday’s huge match against Manchester City, Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes has highlighted where our opponents will be most dangerous, but insists her team relishes the big games like this one.
The Blues currently sit at the top of the Women’s Super League table following victory over Manchester United in our last WSL fixture. Hot on the heels of that game at Kingsmeadow, we travel to Manchester on Sunday to face their neighbours City, who are two points behind us in third place in what is becoming a thrilling and closely run title race.
However, despite the magnitude of the occasion, with top spot in the table up for grabs, Emma Hayes is quick to point out there is no more than the usual three points on offer and insists she is blocking out the noise and treating Sunday like any other match.
‘It’s just another game,’ she said. ‘The media spend time building up the drama, my job is preparing the team to be ready for the task and we have one training session tomorrow, everybody’s recovering today, and I’m sure the group will be ready.
‘It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game, the last game or the middle game, it’s another game in a long season and we are excited about being in the position we are in and we’re looking forward to the weekend.’
As Hayes alluded to with her mention of recovery, this match also falls in a busy period of crucial games for the Blues. In addition to that win over United, we are also between the two legs of our Women’s Champions League quarter-final, with Chelsea taking a 1-0 lead over holders Lyon in France on Wednesday evening, ahead of hosting them at Stamford Bridge this Thursday.
She doesn’t believe the short turnaround between such high-intensity games will be a problem for her team, though, and is at ease about the prospect of needing to rest players.
‘We like it busy,’ Hayes continued. ‘It’s something we’ve become accustomed to over the years. I think the team does really well when it doesn’t have too much of a turnaround time. Especially with a squad of our size, everybody gets to be involved and that helps. The one-game-at-a-time approach is how we always manage it and we’re just ready for the next one.
‘I can manage the team’s busy workload. I’ve got years of experience doing this, I’ve got an unbelievably brilliant team of staff who are around the players and a group that understand our culture and the way that we work. We’re so used to being in this position.
‘I don’t pick a team beyond the next game. I have an idea of what I want to do on Sunday and that’s all I’m preparing for at the moment.’
Despite that confidence, she won’t be underestimating our next opponents, being well aware of the danger posed by a side which hasn’t lost a league game since their visit to Kingsmeadow back in September.
‘It’s clear they’ll be a threat, particularly in wide areas. Khadija Shaw’s having an unbelievable season, with Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly, tremendous players, Yui Hasegawa. Their midfield as a whole has been excellent. They’re a team that had a really good run after their early-season losses and they’ve got world-class international players that are capable of hurting any team.
‘Gareth Taylor’s an outstanding coach and the way his team plays is indicative of that. I always think Manchester City teams have been one of the top teams in the country for many years.
‘We respect them as a team and equally it’s about how we present ourselves to them on Sunday. I know I’ve got a dressing room that just looks forward to games like this and we’ll certainly approach the game in that manner. ‘
Hayes also provided a quick update on the condition of Millie Bright, after the defender was forced off with an injury in Wednesday’s win over Lyon.
‘It isn’t too bad, which is good news. I haven’t sat down with the doctor yet but she’s walking around the building just fine today. So no major crisis.’