Emma Hayes says there is no danger of complacency from Chelsea in Sunday’s clash with Reading in which a win will seal the Blues another Women’s Super League title.
Chelsea head into Sunday’s concluding round of fixtures two points clear of second-placed Manchester City and with a goal difference superior by three. While they host sixth-placed Reading, City are at ninth-placed West Ham.
The Kingsmeadow contest is set to see ex-Chelsea midfielder Fara Williams, England’s most-capped player, make her final appearance before retirement.
Chelsea boss Hayes told a press conference: “It’s not a shoo-in. They’re a good team. Every single player’s going to run around that pitch for Fara, and we’ve had some tough games against them over the years. So we know we have to be at our best.
“I don’t have a complacent dressing room, thank goodness, because when you do, you underestimate opponents. I know every single player in this building will be talking about the threats they pose to us.”
She added: “West Ham will make it difficult, but City have demonstrated they won’t let up so we have to win.”
Chelsea are aiming to retain the title, having been named 2019-20 champions on a points-per-game basis. When the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, they were a point behind leaders City with a game in hand.
Hayes said: “If we’re to win at the weekend, to be outright league winners as opposed to a points-per-game winner, I think it’s a validation for me – that I still think we were the best team last year, and that to win it this year, for me you’re the best side in the country.
“I expect my team to go and demonstrate that on Sunday.”
Clinching the title would be the second trophy in a potential quadruple for Chelsea, who won the League Cup in February and face Barcelona in next weekend’s Champions League final.
I don’t have a complacent dressing room, thank goodness, because when you do, you underestimate opponents
City boss Gareth Taylor, who is in his first WSL season and saw his team lift the 2019-20 FA Cup in November, said: “We’ll look at the season as a whole at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday and it’ll be with pride, whether we’re champions or runners-up.
“I think the fact we’ve taken this title race to the final game is a pat on the back for us. We want to win and be successful and the perspective will come afterwards.
“Things will either go for us elsewhere or they won’t. We need to just take care of our end.”
Arsenal are all-but certain to take the final Champions League spot, sitting three points ahead of fourth-placed Manchester United with a goal difference better by 26.
The Gunners, whose boss Joe Montemurro is leaving the club at the end of the season, host relegation-threatened Aston Villa while United are at home against fifth-placed Everton.
United boss Casey Stoney, whose side led the table in January, said: “We’ll always look back at the if-onlys really for this season and what could have been achieved, but looking forward to the last game and hopefully putting on a display the fans can be proud of.
“I’ve stated it – not getting Champions League football for me is a personal failure. But also I’ll always look back on the season and think if we had more players fit and available what could we have achieved. That’s probably the biggest question mark – but it’s not an excuse either.”
In the relegation battle, bottom side Bristol City are two points behind Villa and Birmingham and three behind West Ham, with a goal difference greatly inferior to those of each of that trio.
Bristol City are at Brighton, and Robins boss Matt Beard said: “I know the players will give everything. It’s going to be a tough day, but I’m excited to see what we can do.
“Everyone’s human, we’re going to be nervous. We’ve just got to do our job, play with no fear and smiles on our faces and see whether it’s enough.”
Birmingham, who host Tottenham, were deducted a point on Friday for fielding Ruesha Littlejohn when she was due to serve a suspension.