Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes hopes to lead her side into the final of the International Women’s Club Championship with victory over Sydney FC in Japan on Wednesday.
The Ladies play in the Kanko Stadium in Okayama tomorrow, eager to reach Sunday’s Tokyo final but well aware of the quality of our opposition, who arrived in Japan last week and beat NTZ Beleza on Saturday to reach this stage.
Chelsea, meanwhile, did not arrive in Japan until Sunday morning, but landed in the Far East full of confidence and buoyed by new signings Rachel Williams and Laura Bassett, both full England internationals.
And Hayes believes the combination between captain and star player Yuki Ogimi and former Birmingham City attacker Williams will prove crucial when kick-off comes around at 6.30pm local time on Wednesday.
‘We’ve adjusted well and are looking forward to the game tomorrow (Wednesday),’ she said. ‘Hopefully one final session for us on the pitch will prepare us for the game tomorrow evening.
‘We know quite a lot about Sydney. We’ve seen them play on a couple of occasions and we have a lot of scouting reports on them. We are prepared, they’re a top team and we know that, it will be difficult but we are certainly ready.
‘Sydney has an advantage because they’ve been playing together and are in the middle of their season. For us this is a pre-season tournament and preparation has been limited, but good players are good players.
‘Once you combine the likes of Yuki Ogimi with Rachel Williams, Laura Bassett, Eni Aluko, they don’t need a lot of time to find a rhythm. This is the first time these players have played together though so we have to expect it may take a little time to come together.
‘We are blessed to have a player of Yuki’s quality in our club, but we wanted to find the right combination to bring out the best in her ability, and we brought one player, Rachel Williams, who was Player of the Year in England two seasons ago. She is the complete opposite to Yuki, she has a very English style, but is hopefully somebody who will provide her with service and look to run beyond her, so we should watch out for that combination.’
Determination in the Chelsea squad could not be greater, and there is motivation all around. The youngsters in the group want to force a place in next season’s plans, new signings want to impress, while established players know this is a huge opportunity to perform in front of a wider audience, and of course, to get one over on a long-standing rival of English sport.
‘This is a big rivalry, for us to play against the top Australian team is an opportunity for us to show how much English football has progressed in the women’s game,’ Hayes pointed out. ‘Sydney are champions, Chelsea are aspiring to become a top team so it’s an ideal opportunity for us to show our quality and potential.
‘Chelsea has high ambition to become a top team, not just in Europe but across the world. For us this is a chance not only to showcase our talent with one of the most talented players in the world, Yuki Ogimi, in front of her own fans, but also to test ourselves against the best teams in Australia and Japan. It’s an ideal opportunity and we would like to return to this tournament next time as champions of England.
‘We are here to win. That’s part of the reason we are here. We are Chelsea Football Club, so we expect to produce teams competing for titles. Even though we have been together very little time, I think you will see we have the talent that can win the game. We just need to produce a performance.’