Emma Hayes says the players and staff have used their extra preparation time wisely ahead of the trip to Leicester City in the Women’s Super League at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Having overcome Real Madrid on matchday three of our UEFA Women’s Champions League group stage campaign last week, the squad have taken advantage of some well-earned additional recovery time, with all eyes now fixed on our journey to the East Midlands this weekend. It is a game that can be watched live on the FA Player
We head to the King Power Stadium with a three-point advantage at the top of the table, knowing victory is needed to keep the chasing pack at bay, with Arsenal and Manchester United kicking off earlier on Saturday.
Hayes has discussed not only how the team are preparing for the next game, but also how she continues to adjust to life back at work.
‘It was nice to train,' the manager said. 'When you’ve got a game every three days you just recover in-between. It was nice for the group to train, work on things that for us are important. For me, definitely to get fresh. It’ll take until Christmas to be back 100 per cent, still physically it’s demanding, so I’m trying to manage that. You just prepare for these little blocks and we’re ready for the next block starting with Leicester on Saturday.’
During their down time earlier this week, the players took part in some team-building exercises at the training ground, including a spot of fencing. Hayes explained the method behind the activity and joked that the staff were disappointed not to be involved.
‘Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space for the coaches! We were desperate to join! It was an exercise around patience and communication. In fencing, you have to hit the upper torso. It was an exercise to develop those two things and I think they enjoyed it!’
Switching the focus back to football, there has been little to separate the teams who have been battling at the top of the table during the first half of the season. This is nothing new to Hayes, who pinpointed the step-up in quality among the sides in the league.
‘It’s been tight every year. I don’t feel this is any different. The reality is winning by two points, winning by points per game, winning by a goal or two, taking the title to the last day is pretty normal across this league. At least it has been in the last three years. We’re certainly prepared for that and excited for the league at the same time.
‘We’re increasing the qualities across the teams and you can see that in the fixtures. You’ve seen some of the surprising results. It’s something for us to celebrate as well as look forward to, I hope, another tight run-in.’
With Leicester on the horizon, Hayes is full of admiration for the facilities they have to offer. She expressed excitement at playing in the King Power Stadium against an opponent who will prove a difficult obstacle to overcome.
‘It’s a lovely stadium, it’s a lovely pitch. I know with Willie (Kirk) taking over they would’ve had a couple of weeks to prepare, especially with the training time he’s been able to have. We expect them to be a tough outfit to break down. We’re looking forward to playing on a top-class surface in a top stadium, that’s what all the players and staff want. It’s another good opportunity for us.’