Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is vying for a third consecutive Vitality Women’s FA Cup but knows her side will have to topple a ‘fearless’ Manchester United to do so.
The Blues will face the Red Devils at a sold-out Wembley on Sunday afternoon.
Despite having appeared in five FA Cup finals at Wembley, Hayes believes that this does not necessarily give her Chelsea side the edge.
“I think first of all, previous success is not indicative of future success,” Hayes explained in her pre-match press conference. “We’re playing an outstanding team who have led the way in the league this year and are deserving to be in the cup final.”
Speaking on facing a strong Manchester United side who enter the final as slight underdogs and looking for their first piece of silverware since the team was formed in 2018, Hayes described the Red Devils as a ‘fitting opponent’.
“They [Manchester United] are fearless in the way they play, they’re going to want to impose what they’ve been doing to lots of teams, they’ve scored a lot of goals, they’ve got the best defensive record in the league. They’re deserving of being where they are but were a top team and I think it will be a fantastic football match. Im sure it will be a fantastic football match,” she added.
After losing out on silverware earlier in the season, failing to clinch the Continental Tyres League Cup in March and bowing out of the Champions League in the semi-final stage last month, the Chelsea boss says that these two losses act as more of a catalyst for the Blues, stating that bouncing back is something that her team does really well.
Speaking on the 2-1 aggregate loss to Barcelona in Europe, Hayes said: “I think that was the moment this season for our team that we actually realised, hang on, we can, we can compete with the best in the world.”
The FA Cup final is set to be a standout moment in domestic women’s football, drawing a record sell-out crowd of 90,000 at Wembley, the highest crowd in the tournament’s history.
“We’ve actually played a lot of big stadiums, so we have a protocol and a process for it so for us it’s just reminding the players of what that is,” Hayes said.
“For me as a women’s football fan, it means everything. It has been something I’ve sat here on numerous occasions over the last 10 years, championing intentionally pushing, deliberately probing, prodding, demanding, because I always knew that that day wasn’t far away.”
Turning her attention to the injuries that have plagued her side all season, Hayes said that everyone who played in Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Leicester City earlier in the week will be fit, plus FWA Footballer of the Year Sam Kerr who was rested. Fran Kirby, Kadeisha Buchanan and Millie Bright will not feature in the final after suffering respective injuries earlier in the season.
“When you’re going into such a huge game against a top team, you want to go in feeling the best you possibly can, and we are feeling the best we have felt all season,” Hayes said.