It’s the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley today and as if that wasn’t cause enough for celebration as a feast of football, it will also see the first FA cup final meeting of these two giants of the women’s game. Chelsea head into the match as the current holders having completed a domestic treble with the delayed 2021 cup final win against Arsenal in December and on the back of sealing their third successive WSL title. Manchester City meanwhile, are on a 13-game-winning streak and have been victorious in all of their previous three women’s cup finals. Something’s gotta give!
Here’s some of what Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor had to say on how much being in form will help on Sunday:
Yeah, we’re going into it in form but you have to say Chelsea have been in decent form as well. They finish the season off well. Sometimes it can have a relevance to the game with the rhythm and the tempo that we look for but it’s a one-off game and it’s about who manages that game well enough on the day and who plays the game and not so much the occasion I think is a big one. We’ve been there before, we’ve been in Cup finals a lot of times, so have Chelsea, so there’s no real kind of edge for either team – it’s just the ones who go out and perform the best on the day who’re more likely to take the trophy home.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes reflecting the Cont Cup loss against City:
For us, last time we played City we were depleted, this time we’ve got a full strength squad to pick from including Fran Kirby so we’re in a much better position than we were going into the Conti Cup final.
Hayes on Kirby and her potential surprise inclusion in the match day squad after training over the past week or so:
I don’t want to put any pressure on her because I love that kid and she’s been through a lot but she looked like she hadn’t been away, she looked that good in training and it’s nice to see the smile on her face. She’s participated in everything when we said at the start of the week ‘let’s see how we go’. Let’s do one session, day one, and she came out of that and said it’s not enough, then we did day two and I said let’s use you as a neutral or you play half blocks of game and she said ‘I’m fine’. She’s been in training all well so I’m over the moon to be honest.
Taylor responding to the question ‘how do you stop a player like Sam Kerr’?
Sam is very good player but I think if you start to concentrate on her too much, then probably you’re going to neglect one of their other really good players.
Taylor on Chelsea’s success so far perhaps being the benchmark and the rivalry to be the best:
There’s a really healthy respect between both clubs, between the players, between myself and Emma, the organisation. Why wouldn’t we commend what they’ve done? It doesn’t change things of course, we want to be there, we want to be the team that is beating them and we have another opportunity on Sunday.
And Taylor on how tactical a game between Manchester City and Chelsea is compared to other matches:
It’s always a tactical affair when we play Chelsea. They always tend to potentially want to surprise you with something slightly different. We’ve had that situation previously or changing in game, changing at halftime. I think it’s always making sure that we’re ready for any eventuality that we come up and face, whether that’s involved in our build-up play or the way we’re going to press. We try not to go too much into what the opposition do we try and make it about us, focus on our positive areas and our strengths that we work to but yeah, of course I think it’s always an exciting tactical affair in these games.
Emma Hayes on how games between the two side are almost like a chess match:
I always think the first parts of our games are always cagey anyway. I think they open up second half. Whether that will take the same shape, I don’t know. But I’ve always thought [they are] real tactical battles. We feel the same way about each other. They’re different to say our games against Arsenal, which is more of a derby game. This is a chess match between two sides. I think that we’ve got our strengths that can expose them and they’ve got theirs that can expose us and that’s what you want as a football fan. I just know I’ve got a plan and it’s important for the team to realise we have to suffer too. They possess the ball very well and we’re not always going to have it, we need to be disciplined but in possession, I think we’ve got the ability to score goals.
Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson says that the imminent departures of Drew Spence, Ji So-yun and Jonna Andersson from the club is giving them extra motivation:
The three players are going to leave such a big hole in the squad, especially players like Drew and Ji who have been here for so long. I still don’t know how it’s going to be to not have them around but I think it’s also part of something that ignites us and gives us that extra motivation that we want to give them this trophy. We want them to leave this team with another trophy in their hands and see them lift the trophy on Sunday was amazing. And that’s what we want to do again on Sunday.
Players get asked these sort of questions so, how will Gareth Taylor personally prepare for the game on Sunday:
If you’d asked me as a player, I would have told you some kind of superstition because I was quite a superstitious player and probably to the end of my career, I realised that it’s a load of nonsense and it didn’t work. It just gave you peace of mind. I think now, for myself as a coach, nothing special. All I have to get right is my key messaging beforehand. But it just depends really I’m a bit longer in the tooth now and I if I see some nice pancakes on the side which look appealing, it could be the pancakes that are making it for that day. But it’s about the players, it’s about everybody helping the players as much as we can and making them feel comfortable and going out there and playing with a calm head.
And finally, Hayes on the 55k expected at the game and how much more we should aim for for the marquee domestic women’s match of the season at Wembley:
We should fill it. That for me is always the ultimate goal. But I remember sitting here in 2015 and driving that message, that first started out with 35,000 and what I have understood over the years is that’s how you grow the game: Incrementally. So to go from 35,000, to 40,000, to 50,000, to 60,000, you just want to solidify that. And I think, as a sport, we’ve solidified a base around the cup final that we should be proud about. However, I do hope – and I don’t suspect it’ll be this one – but we should be filling out Wembley for the final.
Watch BBC One’s LIVE coverage of Sunday’s tie between Chelsea and Manchester City starts at 13:50 BST, with kick-off at 14:30.