sport

Hayes: It’s their cup final

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes says Saturday’s visit to defending FA WSL champions Liverpool Ladies is a ‘season-defining’ game for the home side.

Defending champions Liverpool are third in the league, five points behind Birmingham and Chelsea who are first and second respectively, although Birmingham have played a game less than Hayes' side and have a better goal difference.

Before the start of the season Hayes told Sky Sports that Chelsea were targeting a top-four finish and she revealed the team's objectives have not changed despite their lofty league position.

\"I think this is a season-defining game for Liverpool, whereas for us top four is still very much the objective,\" Hayes told Sky Sports.

\"Liverpool, as I've said in the past, were deserved champions last year. They won't want to give up their crown easily and you absolutely cannot rule Liverpool out of this title race.

\"But it's nice to be in a position where Chelsea Ladies are talked about highly because for years we've never produced a credible women's football team.

\"We'll take things one step at a time but I'm looking for a good performance from our team, knowing that for Liverpool this game is absolutely everything.

\"To be fair playing at home as defending champions - they will be expected to win this game.\"

Chelsea are looking for their fourth consecutive win and Hayes praised the English backbone to her side for turning a team that finished seventh last season into potential title contenders.

\"It's at this stage of the season where you see the real character of the players and how well they perform under pressure,\" she added.

\"I haven't been here long enough to know that about all of them but the likes of Katie Chapman and Gilly Flaherty who I've coached before (at Arsenal) will be key in determining our finishing position.

\"A great deal of credit for our performances this season must go the English players in our team.

\"There's a lot of talk about the impact of the foreign players but the Eni Aluko's, the Bass's (Laura Bassett), the Rach's (Rachel Williams), the Raff's (Claire Rafferty), the Katie's, the Gilly's all of the English contingent have been so strong.

\"I think sometimes at Chelsea we don't get the credit for that. People don't often talk about the development of our English players.

\"The English girls really don't get the credit they deserve and Mark doesn't pick them (England manager Mark Sampson).

\"He doesn't pick the Katie's and the Gilly's and I don't understand it because they're quality players. I'm hopeful that with more success at Chelsea they will be recognised on the international stage like Bass and Eni.\"