Emma Hayes discussed the deserved praise falling the way of Niamh Charles and the difficult encounter against Liverpool that awaits at Stamford Bridge in the Barclays Women’s Super League on Saturday.
Having returned from our European exploits in Madrid in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Blues reported for training at Cobham on Friday ahead of a return to domestic action in the lunchtime kick-off tomorrow.
Hayes addressed the media on Friday afternoon where she confirmed that Melanie Leupolz and Guro Reiten are unavailable for the visit of Liverpool. The Reds arrive in the capital having made a strong start to the season, with 11 points from 18 available to date.
Having enjoyed a wonderful start to the season as a collective, there have been some standout individual performances. Charles is one of the names on many people’s lips and Hayes has nothing but praise for a player who is getting all the plaudits she deserves.
‘The thing coaches love the most is development of players. I’ve got so many memories of the countless hours she is putting in on the grass, whether that’s getting her prep touches right to set herself up for a cross, whether it’s getting out to a cross to be better on one-v-one defending.
‘Aerially and athletically, she has always been superb. We’ve always felt she has every element to be a top class player. She has the character and the game intelligence. She had to improve the decision making, when to carry and when to release the ball, that’s one I’ve focused on.
‘She had to become a defender first, transitioning from a winger. I think about the work that has been done on Niamh. The work she has put in over the last two years in particular has been extraordinary. It’s of no surprise to any of us inside Chelsea.'
We return to Stamford Bridge on Saturday looking to continue our unbeaten start to the season and extend our lead at the top of the league table. Hayes discussed the steps being taken which have made the club stadium feel more familiar for the team.
‘We have a new commercial manager for the women’s team and Carly Telford is part of that team. We recognise we might not meet every goal in this first half of the season in terms of the volume of tickets we want to sell.
'We now have good processes in place for our future. I suspect our crowd will be similar to that of the last time we played there so consolidating that is our first step.
'Playing back-to-back games there will be helpful. It is sometimes challenging when you want it to become your home. We realise that won’t all come at once, but it’s become more familiar than ever so we’re looking forward to it.'
Our opponents Liverpool arrive sitting fifth in the league table with three wins from six matches so far this season. Hayes gave an insight into what we can expect from a side coached by Matt Beard - a person for whom she has great respect.
‘Liverpool are the most improved team in the league. Four games unbeaten but the way they play, their physicality, their press makes it difficult for you to build-up.
'They are prepared to do the hard work, but then they in return play in a 3-1-6 and they shove six bodies high against your line.
‘They’re really difficult, really brave and really aggressive getting numbers into the box. The team are under no illusions.'