Chelsea FC Women travel to Portugal today for Wednesday’s first-leg round of 32 tie with Benfica and Emma Hayes has confirmed Sam Kerr will be in the squad despite coming off with a hip injury in our Women’s Super League victory over West Ham on Sunday.
While speaking to the media during this afternoon’s press conference, the Blues boss also spoke about the form of Blues forward Fran Kirby, what it means to be back in the Champions League campaign after a year away, and why her side will have to change its mind set in Europe.
Chelsea women squad news
Hayes explained Kerr has recovered sufficiently to make the journey despite coming off in the win over the Hammers.
‘Sam bruised her hip but she’ll be part of the squad tomorrow,’ she said. ‘She needs another 24 hours to help with that healing but hopefully she continues to recover as she has done in the last two days.‘I haven’t spoken to my doctor yet so I won’t get any more team news until later today.’
Having endured a stop-start domestic fixture programme recently, Hayes is hoping to build momentum during a busy run of games in December.
‘I think we need it,’ she admitted. ‘I’ve often said to compete in the Champions League, if you look at the squad sizes of Lyon in particular, PSG, Wolfsburg, Barcelona, you need that quality to cope with not just three games a week but five games in two weeks, and that’s what we have to do.
‘We’ve built a squad to cope with the demands, everyone drives me mad for playing time so this is an opportunity for the squad to show itself and I’m sure there will be plenty of games for everybody in the squad.’
Hayes on whether Fran Kirby is back to her best
‘I think Fran’s probably in the form of her life. I don’t think its top form, I think she’s setting new standards every game for herself and she’s a great team player.‘She’s contributing in so many ways on and off the pitch and the maturing process is a testament to that. Her, along with Sam, Beth, Pernille are starting to really find their feet.‘Everyone was happy for the attacking players at the weekend because we know the pressure that is placed on them and we as a team support everybody and the demands that everyone expects for us.’
The boss went on to discuss what, now they are back in it, the Champions League means to her and her players.‘It’s fair to say that winning trophies is what we enjoy doing. We don’t place any emphasis on one over the other.‘For us we know the importance that it is just another game. We are excited to be back in Europe because of the different type of opponent but we also have enough experience in our group to not run away with anything.‘We know we were out of this competition last year because the quality domestically wasn’t good enough, so we have to focus on making sure that’s the priority.‘We think about trophies when it’s time to compete for them and right now we don’t compete for titles.‘You have to switch your mind set [playing in European competition]. Officiating is different, the opponent in terms of how they play their game is different to what you are used to in the rough and tumble of the WSL.‘We know Benfica is a big club, a big name, champions of Portugal and they look well organised. We have to make sure we don’t underestimate them. Our players will be prepared to do what’s necessary and also respect that this competition requires a different mind set.’You can watch tomorrow’s game live on the website and the 5th Stand app (UK only), kick-off 3pm.