Emma Hayes feels her Chelsea side must be perfect in the title run-in to be crowned Women’s Super League champions again.
Chelsea trail leaders Manchester United by four points but have two games in hand, the first of which is at home to lowly Leicester on Wednesday.
The Blues – who play United in the FA Cup final on Sunday – complete their league programme with trips to West Ham and Reading and a visit from Arsenal in between.
Another quick turnaround! pic.twitter.com/V2lvHiKBJ1
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) May 9, 2023
“We have to win all four games,” Chelsea boss Hayes said unequivocally at her pre-match press conference. “We’re in a good rhythm, we like the games.
“It’s tiring in one element because it’s a quick turnaround, but the dressing room would always prefer back-to-back games over lots of training.”
Chelsea are seeking a fourth successive WSL title and have scored 26 goals in four games against Leicester, including an 8-0 away win this season.
But Hayes, who has top scorer Sam Kerr available after the Australia striker came off as a precaution in Sunday’s 7-0 thrashing of Everton, is taking nothing for granted.
“Leicester in their form are indicative of top five, top six,” said Hayes, who refused to be drawn on speculation linking Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder with end of season moves to Bayern Munich.
“They are the most aggressive team in the league and the most improved side in the whole of the WSL.
“They are going to be wounded from that (losing 8-0 at home) and they’ve learned a lot since then.
“They have a point to prove and I made that clear to the players. I do not underestimate Leicester in any shape or form, and I think this will be a game that will go the distance.”
Chelsea face an 11th-placed Leicester outfit who are two points clear of bottom side Reading with three more matches remaining, one more than the Royals.
Since Willie Kirk took charge in November with the Foxes bottom on zero points, they have collected 13 from as many matches, winning four times.
The Scot’s side were edged 1-0 at Arsenal last Friday and he said: “I’ve no doubt we’ll be more competitive than that (8-0) game.
“It was a bad day at the office, but those early games were a little bit of finding out for me in terms of who’s going to continue the journey, what we need to improve on. I feel we’ve ticked a lot of those boxes now and you’re seeing a much different Leicester.
“We might be able to capitalise on them having a cup final four days later. But what it comes down to is how we go about it.”
Wednesday’s other game sees fourth-placed Arsenal play at Brighton.
With two games in hand, the Gunners are three points behind third-placed Manchester City, who suffered a shock 2-1 loss at Liverpool on Sunday.
The #BarclaysWSL table after Gameweek 20!@ChelseaFCW move up to second pic.twitter.com/FL3qjqXpvY
— Barclays Women’s Super League (@BarclaysWSL) May 7, 2023
Asked about that result and for his thoughts on the table, Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall said: “I don’t care.
“We have four more games, we need to take one at a time, do our very best and if we do, we can finish as high as possible in the table. That’s the only thing we can influence.”
The fixture was originally scheduled for January but postponed due to a frozen pitch. Brighton have since changed manager, Jens Scheuer being replaced by Melissa Phillips, and secured seven points from four games under the American, moving up to ninth.
Eidevall said: “We would have liked to play them in January, of course, but now it is what it is, you never know where someone is going to put these games, with late broadcast pick and everything.
“I put that aside for now – I definitely think that’s a conversation for the future, to make this league more professional and fair.”
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