Emma Hayes is expecting an enjoyable match when Chelsea Women face Leicester City’s distinctive brand of football in the Women’s Super League on Sunday afternoon.
Fresh from picking up our first Women’s Champions League victory of the season, beating Paris FC 4-1 at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening, the focus turns back to domestic matters this weekend, as Chelsea Women look to extend our run of five consecutive wins in that competition when we host Leicester City at Kingsmeadow.
We will have to do so without captain Millie Bright, who has withdrawn from next week’s international duty due to the injury which has caused her to miss our last two matches. We go into this match in fine form in the WSL, though, having scored 20 goals with just three in reply across our last five fixtures.
Emma Hayes knows our next opponents will present a very different challenge for her team, due to their competitive, high tempo style of play.
‘They are the most aggressive team in the league, statistically,’ said Hayes. ‘They allow the fewest number of passes per defensive actions in the WSL.
‘They demonstrated in the first half against Arsenal, it was about one-vs-one duels and very transitional. So it’s going to be a game where you have to compete with them first and you earn the right to play.
‘If they continue in the same way, we all know there are going to be spaces, but equally there are going to be threats, because they commit bodies forward, are brave and aggressive. But I think every game is hard.’
Despite knowing how tough Sunday’s match is likely to be, it is one Hayes is looking forward to. Having acknowledged Leicester’s distinctive way of playing, she admitted she is an admirer and full of respect for the team Foxes manager Willie Kirk has built there.
‘Willie is a seasoned manager,’ she added. ‘You can see this year what progress Leicester have made and they really make it difficult for every team. They don’t care who you are – and I like that.
‘They are bold and brave in the way that they play and personally I like those games. I don’t like people moaning about that stuff.
‘I’m the ref in our training sessions and can you imagine how bad I am? They think I’m the worse ref in the world but I ref a game like you’re playing against Leicester. I’ll never blow the whistle, you have to cope with your duels, get up and go again.
‘I love that mentality he’s instilled in his team. They are very front-footed and fun to watch. I’m sure it’ll be fun to play.’
Let’s hope the Chelsea players and supporters at Kingsmeadow enjoy the match as much as Hayes does when the fun begins at 2pm on Sunday.