Emma Hayes has insisted Chelsea’s motivation to reach another Women’s FA Cup final is not driven by her imminent exit.

It was revealed last November that the Blues boss will end her trophy-laden 12 years club at the conclusion of this campaign to take over as United States manager.

Hayes has entered the home straight of her time at Chelsea and missed out on silverware two weeks ago when Arsenal beat them 1-0 in the Women’s League Cup final.

The highly decorated Hayes courted controversy afterwards when she appeared to shove Arsenal counterpart Jonas Eidevall, but ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, the 47-year-old played down the impact of her summer departure.

She told a press conference: “I’m absolutely committed to doing everything I possibly can to help the team achieve these goals and I’m looking forward to the games.

“The team want to win for themselves. They want to win for the football club. They want to win for the families. They want to win because they’re winners.

“They’re sick to death of what they need to do for me and that’s fair, it’s not about me.

“It’s about them and us as a collective making sure we maximise the situations we are in.

“There are three pieces of silverware up for grabs and I’m very grateful to be in the position to be competing for them.”

While Chelsea eye Women’s Super League, FA Cup and Champions League success this season, United’s focus is purely on the domestic cup after an inconsistent campaign.

Marc Skinner led United to last season’s final where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea at Wembley and he knows the size of the task at Leigh Sports Village.

“I think their success over the past seasons and beyond is something that everybody wants to replicate,” Skinner acknowledged.

“It’s a tough, tough ask. Everybody goes, ‘you’ve got to beat Chelsea’… well not many teams do.

“I think, from our perspective, we have to give everything in this game and I believe on our day and when we have our qualities and we work hard, we can beat anybody.

“If we do that, then I believe we’ll be in a position to progress into the final of the FA Cup.”

The winner of Sunday’s other semi-final between Tottenham and Leicester will reach a maiden FA Cup final.

 

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Spurs switched the fixture to their men’s 62,850-seater stadium and boss Robert Vilahamn is desperate to reach Wembley in his first season in charge.

Vilahamn said: “We started our meeting with the journey we are on and that it ends at Wembley hopefully, but then everything else goes back to normal.

“I think if we have a good performance we have a good chance to win and go to Wembley.

“I just hope we can bring so many fans to stadium and make sure we do this together.

“We play for them, we don’t play for ourselves. We want to make sure we have a lot of fans at the stadium and make them proud.

“If we’re going to reach the final, we need them because they give us that extra energy.”

Meanwhile, ninth-placed Leicester will be boosted by the return of goalkeeper Janina Leitzig, who has not played since February due to a shoulder injury.

The Foxes have endured a difficult season with Willie Kirk suspended in March and subsequently dismissed weeks later, which has resulted in Jennifer Foster stepping up on an interim basis.

Foster revealed: “Janina is back at 100 per cent.

“Lize (Kop) has been playing well but it’s good to have both senior goalkeepers back in contention again to push each other.”

Emma Hayes bizarrely recited part of a poem after Jonas Eidevall branded her accusation against him of male aggression “irresponsible”.

Eidevall’s Arsenal defeated Hayes’ Chelsea 1-0 earlier this month in the Continental Cup final but the result was overshadowed by a spat between the two managers.

Hayes took exception to a touchline altercation between Eidevall and Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert and appeared to push the Arsenal boss after the match.

Both managers were speaking for the first time since the contest ahead of matches this weekend, and Eidevall did not hold back in criticising Hayes for her remarks.

“I thought the comments that I heard after the game were very irresponsible and they were not mirroring the conduct that I had in the technical area,” Eidevall said on arsenal.com.

“I think always when you make comments about other persons, you have to take into consideration what effects that may have. That’s why you need to be, especially when you’re a leader, you need to be very good with words.

“You need to understand the consequences of both your actions and your language and that’s why I think it’s really, really important that we treat each other with a lot of respect and that we stay at facts as much as possible and don’t get too emotional.”

Hayes’ response – when asked whether she would change her comments – was to read a line from Robert Frost’s poem Choose Something Like a Star: “When at times the mob is swayed to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star, to stay our minds on and be staid.”

Neither manager offered an apology, with Eidevall saying he was “very happy” with the way he conducted himself, while Hayes described a conversation with her young son about responding to aggression.

“My son said to me after the game, ‘Mummy, when you push someone in school you’re asked to go and take time out’,” she told reporters.

“And I said to him, ‘You know what darling, you can’t meet aggression with aggression. All you can do is tell the teacher’. I thought it was a really good conversation to have with my son.”

Pressed further, Hayes indicated she regretted her reaction, saying: “I’ve had a fantastic break, I’ve already explained an important analogy that I shared with my son and the lessons learned and my focus is on moving forward and I’ve had time to look at my star.

“Of course it’s not right to meet aggression with aggression. I can only control my own behaviours.

“I’ve reflected on that and next time I just need to listen to my son’s advice and I need to go to the teacher if I’ve got anything to say.”

On Eidevall’s branding of her as “irresponsible”, Hayes said simply: “I don’t have an opinion on it.”

There appears no prospect of clear-the-air talks between the pair any time soon, with Hayes, who will not face any sanction for the push, adding: “We don’t play Arsenal, we don’t have each other’s telephone numbers, we’d have no reason to do that.

“But I’m sure when I become the boss of the USA we will have conversations. Until the end of the season, my focus is on Chelsea.”

Eidevall revealed, meanwhile, that Frida Maanum, who collapsed during the cup final in worrying scenes, could return in next weekend’s match against Leicester.

“Everything is looking good and that’s the most important thing,” said Eidevall. “She’s on a graduated, monitored protocol now to return to play.

“She will not be available for selection (against Bristol City) on Sunday but, after that, if everything goes as planned, it looks promising for her to be available to play again.”

Jonas Eidevall believes Emma Hayes was “irresponsible” in accusing him of male aggression in a heated finish to the Women’s League Cup final.

Eidevall’s Arsenal defeated Hayes’ Chelsea 1-0 earlier this month but the result was overshadowed by a spat between the two managers.

Hayes took exception to a touchline altercation between Eidevall and Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert and appeared to push the Arsenal boss after the match.

Hayes will not face any sanction but, speaking at a press conference ahead of Arsenal’s Women’s Super League clash with Bristol City on Sunday, Eidevall criticised the Chelsea boss for her post-match comments.

“I thought the comments that I heard after the game were very irresponsible and they were not mirroring the conduct that I had in the technical area,” Eidevall said on arsenal.com.

“I think always when you make comments about other persons you have to take into consideration what effects that may have. That’s why you need to be, especially when you’re a leader, you need to be very good with words.

“You need to understand the consequences of both your actions and your language and that’s why I think it’s really, really important that we treat each other with a lot of respect and that we stay at facts as much as possible and don’t get too emotional.

“I’m very happy with the way I conducted myself and I wouldn’t do anything differently if I could redo it again.”

Eidevall revealed, meanwhile, that Frida Maanum, who collapsed during the cup final in worrying scenes, could return in next weekend’s match against Leicester.

“Everything is looking good and that’s the most important thing,” said Eidevall. “She’s on a graduated, monitored protocol now to return to play. She will not be available for selection on Sunday but, after that, if everything goes as planned, it looks promising for her to be available to play again.”

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall said Chelsea will not provide a “mental obstacle” for his players ahead of their League Cup final showdown at Molineux on Sunday.

Chelsea, who are bidding to complete a quadruple in Emma Hayes’ last season in charge, beat the Gunners 3-1 in the Women’s Super League just a fortnight ago.

However, Arsenal did see off the Blues in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium in December, and were also victorious in last season’s League Cup final between the two sides.

Chelsea, who booked their place in the Champions League semi-finals earlier this week, are the favourites to win at Molineux.

But speaking ahead of Sunday’s showpiece, Eidevall, said: “I don’t think there is any mental obstacle for us saying that we couldn’t beat Chelsea because we’ve done so on numerous occasions.

“But there also shouldn’t be any complacency going in. We’re playing against a very good team and they’ve beaten us before, so it’s really about coming down to the best team on the day.

“Preparation plays a huge part in that and that’s what we’re focusing on. The feeling is good, we’re courageous, we’re brave and we’re going after it.”

Hayes is set to end a successful 12-year tenure in the summer to become head coach of the United States women’s team.

The 47-year-old has won six Women’s Super League titles and lifted the FA Cup five times during her time in charge.

Commenting on his rivalry with Hayes, Eidevall, who has been manager at Arsenal since 2021, said: “We’ve really enjoyed the games from a challenge perspective, and it has been really exciting to be involved in.

“But rivalries in elite football will continue to come, and when one ends, another one emerges. I don’t think there will be any shortage of rivalries in the WSL.”

While Sunday’s game could mark the final realistic chance of a trophy for Arsenal – who have fallen six points adrift of Chelsea and Manchester City in the WSL with five games left – Hayes’ side are fighting on all fronts, with an FA Cup semi-final meeting against Manchester United and a European last-four date with Barcelona to follow next month.

“Sometimes you don’t know what competition you’re in when you’re in our dressing room, let alone what day it is,” said Hayes.

“But let’s be clear, we will see two top-level teams (on Sunday). Both are capable of winning the games, and both have their own qualities.

“You’ve got to show up and present yourself in the way that gives you the best chance, particularly the first part (of the game). If you don’t, it can make it a little bit difficult.”

Emma Hayes says that the Conti Cup “is absolutely important to her” ahead of Chelsea’s final against Arsenal on Sunday.

The Blues will be looking to keep their quadruple hopes alive, having lost the final of the competition in the past two seasons.

Chelsea suffered a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City in 2022 before they lost 3-1 to Sunday’s opponents last season.

Hayes, whose side beat Arsenal 3-1 in the Women’s Super League two weeks ago, highlighted the importance of her team giving their all at Molineux.

“Have you watched our performances in the last two Conti Cup finals? Because I have and they have – again and again,” Hayes told a press conference.

“Let me be clear on this: the team know exactly how I feel about that final on Sunday in terms of showing up and showing ourselves. I don’t care if it’s important to them – it absolutely is important to me.”

Chelsea picked up a first WSL defeat of the season in a  4-1 loss to Jonas Eidevall’s Gunners at the Emirates in December.

Hayes warned her side must start well to avoid a similar situation.

She added: “You have to show up on the day, let’s be clear, they’re two top-level teams. Both are capable of winning the games, both have their own qualities.

“The team that shows up strong, particularly the first part, you think about the Emirates game, it was over at half-time.

“You’d better show up from the off. If you don’t, it can make it a little bit difficult.”

Winger Guro Reiten talked up the importance of the all-London final, predicting Arsenal will look for revenge after their recent defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Reiten said: “It means a lot to beat Arsenal. They’re the best matches to win and the worst ones to lose.

“They’re probably going to come into the final and want revenge.”

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes believes her side has simply lived up to expectations by securing passage to the Champions League semi-finals after a 1-1 draw with Ajax at Stamford Bridge.

Mayra Ramirez opened the scoring 33 minutes into in the first half of her Champions League debut and, while Chasity Grant netted a second-half consolation for the visitors, the Blues ultimately booked their place in the final four with a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Blues, who progressed to the semi-finals for the fifth time in seven seasons, will face the winners of the last-eight clash between holders Barcelona and Norwegian side Brann, who play their second leg on Thursday.

Hayes said: “If you look at our record in the Champions League, even in the last five years, it was only once we didn’t qualify from the group. We’ve made the latter stages every year.

“We expect to be here, I should say that. I don’t make any excuses. We should be at this level, and we should be at the semi-finals. Of course we have a little bit more depth to be able to do things like make six changes tonight than we’ve ever had.

“But we haven’t won anything. We’re in the place we want to be. I don’t know who the opponent will be, but we’re ready.”

The Champions League trophy is the one that still eludes Hayes, who has secured 13 major titles in her 12-year run at the Blues’ helm that will conclude when she departs at the end of this season to take over the US women’s national team ahead of this summer’s Olympics.

The now five-time semi-finalists came closest when they reached a maiden final in 2021, ultimately finishing runners-up in a 4-0 loss to Barcelona, the same side who knocked them out with a 2-1 victory on aggregate in last season’s semi-finals.

This time around Hayes feels Chelsea have “more attacking options, more variety, a little more experience”.

“We’ve been in the latter stages so many times, we know where we have to be to play in those sorts of games,” Hayes added.

Ajax captain Sherida Spitse, whose side were just the second Dutch club to reach the last eight in Women’s Champions League history, insisted she and her team-mates will walk away from the competition with their heads held high.

She said: “I think we can be really proud of each other. Of course you always want to win, you always want to go through, but in the end we have shown who Ajax are and that we have developed in a good way, especially in the games in the Champions League.

“We have to be here every year because I think that is the best place to be.”

Chelsea reached the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth time in their history after a 1-1 draw with Ajax at Stamford Bridge secured a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Blues entered the evening already 3-0 ahead from their first-leg victory in Amsterdam and further eased any tension when Mayra Ramirez netted her first Champions League goal to open the scoring after 33 minutes in west London.

It came after a nervy start for the hosts, who narrowly avoided conceding from a first-half mishap before Chasity Grant drew Ajax level with one of few chances after the break.

Chelsea will face the winners of the last-eight clash between holders Barcelona and Norwegian side Brann, who play their quarter-final second leg tomorrow night.

Emma Hayes made seven changes from the side that beat West Ham in the Women’s Super League on Sunday, while 16-year-old Ajax midfielder Lily Yohannes, called up to the US women’s national team on Tuesday, served a suspension after picking up her third yellow card of the competition in the first leg.

Ajax captain Sherida Spitse nodded onto the roof of Zecira Musovic’s net from a short corner at the beginning of the first half.

Erin Cuthbert, wearing the captain’s armband for the hosts, skimmed the edge of the post with an effort, before Ashley Lawrence made perhaps the wrong decision when she might have had a shot of her own, instead unable to find the sliding Aggie Beever-Jones with a cross.

There were also missed opportunities for Ajax. First Romee Leuchter dragged an effort wide before the Blues survived a nervy incident when Musovic crashed her clearance against Tiny Hoekstra and gratefully watched as it rolled inches wide.

Chelsea had multiple chances to do it sooner but finally opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when Guro Reiten slipped Ramirez through and the Colombian obliged with a low finish through the legs of crouching Ajax keeper Regina van Eijk.

Jonna van de Velde looked to level, firing just over, and while Chelsea enjoyed a surge of chances before the break it was Ajax who looked most likely to score when Leuchter sent an effort across the face of goal on the stroke of half-time.

Leuchter threatened again, forcing Musovic into a low save after the restart, one of the only chances for either side until Hoekstra played through Grant, who drew the sides level when she fooled Musovic with a low finish in the 65th minute.

It took a brilliant block from Musovic to claw away another Leuchter effort and Ajax kept the Chelsea keeper busy to the end.

Musovic denied substitute Danique Tolhoek’s attempt as the Blues – who had their own late chances – secured safe passage to the final four. 

Emma Hayes does not believe her trophy-laden Chelsea reign should be defined by whether she can end the club’s wait for a maiden Women’s Champions League crown.

Blues boss Hayes is set to end a successful 12-year tenure in the summer to become head coach of the United States women’s team.

The 47-year-old has won six Women’s Super League titles and lifted the FA Cup five times during her time in charge but continental glory has proved elusive.

Chelsea are on course to reach the semi-finals in Europe in Hayes’ swansong season, having built a 3-0 aggregate lead going into Wednesday evening’s quarter-final second leg at home to Ajax.

“Of course, if I was able to win the Champions League in my time here I’m sure it would be another unbelievable achievement,” she said.

“But for my era to be defined by one competition is probably not what matters most to me.

“What matters most – beyond the winning over the years – is that I will leave the shirt in a better place.

“That’s probably the thing I’m most invested in – to make sure that when I leave, the team is in a fabulous place and certainly in a better place than when I took over and where I can come back as a fan and enjoy them hopefully in many more Champions League (campaigns).”

Chelsea came close to Champions League glory in 2021 before suffering an emphatic 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final.

The Blues are poised for a potential semi-final rematch with reigning champions Barca this term.

Yet, despite last week building a commanding first-leg lead in Amsterdam, Hayes insists it would be a “mistake” to overlook an Ajax team with little to lose.

“The fear of losing or the fear of not being in that semi-final is, for us, as big a drive as it is the desire to win it, in fact it’s more,” said Hayes.

“There is no-one in our dressing room that will take tomorrow’s game lightly or think for one minute just because we’re winning 3-0 that the game is over. That is a mistake.

“It all starts in your head, in your mind.

“And, when a team has nothing to lose, they play with freedom and in a different way to express themselves and they are often the most dangerous opponents so, for sure, we don’t take tomorrow lightly.”

Chelsea’s midweek appointment at Stamford Bridge comes four days before the Continental Tyres League Cup final against Arsenal at Molineux.

Preparations for the Gunners – the only English club to have won the Champions League following success in 2007 – remain on the back-burner.

“We only play one game at a time; I’m not thinking about Sunday,” said Hayes.

“I’m thinking about tomorrow. We know Ajax are going to come out and be aggressive. We’re expecting that.

“Only one team advances, so we’re prepared for the aggression from the opponent.

“They’re a good side and it’s important for us to keep all of our focus and attention on tomorrow.”

Sjoeke Nusken scored her second brace in as many games as Chelsea beat Ajax 3-0 in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final.

Emma Hayes’ side continued their search for European glory as they flexed their attacking pedigree at Johan Cruijff ArenA.

Lauren James was among the scorers again before summer signing Nusken was on hand twice to extend their advantage ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge later this month.

Chelsea took the lead after 19 minutes. James and Nusken, who had starred in the Blues’ 3-1 win over Arsenal in the Women’s Super League last week, combined again.

Nusken tried to thread a ball through and after it rebounded off two Ajax players, James rounded the keeper to score.

The Blues thought they had doubled the lead through Guro Reiten but were denied after a lengthy VAR check.

James showed off her technical ability to pick out Reiten in the box but her strike took a nick off the offside Nusken as Chelsea were left frustrated.

Reiten had impressed down the left flank all night and made another dangerous run before Chelsea doubled their lead.

The Norwegian winger marauded forward before she delivered an inch-perfect cross to the surging Nusken. The versatile German did not think twice before she finished first time, highlighting Chelsea’s ruthlessness in front of goal and strengthening their foothold in the tie.

The Blues had dominated up to this point. They came out in the second half playing at the same tempo and enjoyed long spells of possession before Nusken missed the chance to put them 3-0 up.

A pinged pass was made into the box and after Reiten did well to beat her marker in the air and knock it down, Nusken leant back too far before powering her strike well over the bar.

Catarina Macario’s impact was noticed straight away off the bench as she assisted the third.

The pacey wide player whipped a cross from the right into the path of Nusken who was alert in the box, and she rose highest and powered a header home.

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes has said she let herself down with comments on relationships between players and was wrong to use the term “inappropriate”.

Hayes said in a news conference on Thursday that player-coach relationships should be banned in the Women’s Super League and that player-player relationships were also “inappropriate”.

Chelsea defender Jess Carter, who is in a relationship with team-mate Ann-Katrin Berger, later liked a tweet claiming it was “beyond bonkers to bring player/player relationships into the conversation”.

Chelsea striker Sam Kerr announced her engagement with West Ham’s American midfielder Kristie Mewis last year.

After Chelsea’s WSL win against Arsenal on Friday night, Hayes, who has won six WSL titles since taking charge in 2012, said she regretted her comments.

Hayes said: “Of course Jess and I have had a conversation about that.

“I’m supposed to be the most non-clickbait coach and so I let myself down yesterday.

“I don’t think it was right for me to use the term inappropriate for the players.

“When I have honest conversations I don’t take things back but I have zero criticism of any player in my dressing room for anything regarding their status or who they’re in a relationship with.”

On Thursday, Aston Villa boss Carla Ward said a manager should be sacked for having a relationship with a player, calling it a “complete abuse of power”.

Hayes was one of several other WSL head coaches who claimed coach-player relationships should not be allowed.

When asked if a ban should be part of a wider WSL code of conduct, Hayes said: “Yeah, I think so. There are challenges that we should be moving past.”

Emma Hayes lauded “maverick” Lauren James’ performance in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Women’s Super League title rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

James impressed once again and scored Chelsea’s opener when she latched onto a through ball, showed good skills to open up a shooting opportunity before drilling in a shot which Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger got her hands to but was unable to keep out.

Sjoeke Nusken then struck twice more in the first half to put the game beyond Arsenal as Chelsea moved three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.

It was an impressive display from the reigning WSL champions in a game delayed by a sock clash, and James’ performance in front of 33,000 fans in west London drew special praise from her coach.

“It’s a playground for her out there,” Hayes said.

“We coach many different players but Lauren is a maverick. It’s not always perfect, it’s not always on point, it’s not always consistent in every element but I understand her as a person and I know that when we get to Stamford Bridge she will 1000 per cent perform for the team here.

“She did her job out of possession with Nusken and I thought she played with joy and freedom when the ball was played to her feet.

“She can carry the weight of the crowd and knows she’s important for the team. I’m happy for her.”

James had been a doubt for the game after battling with illness earlier in the week but Hayes admitted she needed the 22-year-old England international.

She added: “She’d been sick all week. She came on against Everton and wasn’t very well, she came out for one training session and I told her that she has to go and play up top because we don’t have another striker.”

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall, whose third-placed side netted a late consolation through Catarina Macario’s own goal, said failing to deal with James contributed to their downfall.

“We allowed Chelsea to play (with) our organisation and that was their plan when playing James at nine,” he said.

“She’s very good and I thought we dealt with her very poorly and that was a big part of us not performing well enough to push for the result or the win today.”

Jonas Eidevall revealed referee Rebecca Welch delayed Chelsea’s Women’s Super League clash with Arsenal when both teams were lined up in the tunnel.

Kick-off for Chelsea’s 3-1 victory was delayed by 30 minutes while Arsenal staff collected black socks from their opponents’ megastore, using blue tape to cover the Chelsea and Nike logos.

Arsenal had arrived to Stamford Bridge with the same colour white socks as the hosts and were forced to make a change.

“It was a clash of colour with the kits which came to mine, the players and the other team’s attention very late,” he said.

“We got told that we can’t go out and play with the kit we had so we had to adapt and that was definitely a first.

“I was not involved in the process in how it was resolved.

“We found out when we left the dressing room to go to the tunnel so it was a very late call and notice.

“It is what it is. It was the same for both teams.”

Emma Hayes admitted she was delighted with the incident and relished seeing Arsenal players wearing Chelsea lions on their socks.

Hayes also called for less criticism towards Arsenal’s kit man, acknowledging he was left red-faced after the mix-up.

“I’m not throwing the kit man under the bus,” Hayes said.

“He’s going to be feeling terrible tonight, it was a mistake. He’s a new guy, new into the position so please don’t slaughter him.

“Because we didn’t have our blue socks I couldn’t say ‘don’t worry about it, we’ll put blue socks on’.

“I was delighted to see lion crests on Arsenal players’ legs in the first half. Maybe that gave my players motivation, I don’t know.

“It was an earnest mistake and something which that poor guy is going home tonight and will feel bad about. I’m certainly not going to pile in on him.”

Erin Cuthbert says Chelsea’s players are “driven” to give Emma Hayes “the send-off she deserves” as they pursue silverware on four fronts.

Hayes’ trophy-laden 12-year tenure as Blues boss is to conclude this summer when she takes charge of the United States national team.

Chelsea play Arsenal – the only English side to have won a quadruple, in 2007 with Hayes on their coaching staff – in the Women’s Super League at Stamford Bridge on Friday, sitting top, level on points with second-placed Manchester City and three clear of the Gunners.

Also before the end of March they face Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals and Arsenal in the League Cup final, while last weekend they advanced to an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

Midfielder Cuthbert, a Chelsea player since 2016, said: “We’ve done everything right until now, but we have the chance to either go on and be great or win nothing. Emma has reminded us of that.

“We really want to do it for Emma – I certainly do. It’s well and good talking about a potential quadruple but we’re at the point where we can still win absolutely nothing, so the main message is less talk, more action, and make sure when the big moments come we’re ready.

“Emma’s done a lot for me. She’s done so much for the club. I will be grateful for her, and the way she’s sort of driven the women’s game in general as well.

“Whatever happens this season, Emma’s legacy will not be defined in the space of three months, but of course, she’ll want to go out on a high, and I think the players are all driven to give Emma the send-off she deserves.

“I’d love nothing more than to celebrate with her at the end of the season (with) multiple trophies. But that’s only done with a process and giving 100 per cent every day, working hard and giving extra, especially when we’re thin (in terms of availability).

“This is the moment where we need to sort of go up another gear, because the games are coming thick and fast.”

Chelsea have been navigating a busy schedule with some big names out injured, including Sam Kerr and captain Millie Bright, nearing a return from a knee issue.

Both Cuthbert and Niamh Charles have skippered the side in Bright’s absence, a responsibility the 25-year-old Scotland international says she has “certainly enjoyed”.

While Kerr and Mia Fishel have recently been lost to ACL injuries, fellow forward Catarina Macario, signed from Lyon last summer, this month returned from one sustained in June 2022 to score in her first two Chelsea appearances.

Cuthbert said: “It’s the best feeling ever to be a team-mate and witness that, when you have seen someone go through absolute hell – there’s been a lot of blood, sweat, tears, I saw her really down many times.

“Moments like (the goals) hopefully make it all worthwhile for her. It’s no easy route as a footballer coming back from injury, but I think she’s had it especially tough, one of the toughest I’ve seen.”

In December Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal beat Chelsea 4-1 in front of an Emirates Stadium crowd of 59,042.

Ticket sales for Friday reached 30,000 on Monday, and Cuthbert said: “We really need the fans. We felt how much fans played a big role in them beating us, it certainly can be the 12th player, and we need to use that on Friday.”

Chelsea are chasing a seventh, and fifth successive, WSL title. They have also won five FA Cups under Hayes, including the last three, and two League Cups, and were Champions League runners-up in 2021.

Chelsea forward Mia Fishel has successfully undergone surgery for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained on international duty with the United States.

The striker tore the ligament in her right knee just before the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup, where the USA ultimately beat Brazil 1-0 for the trophy.

The injury also rules the 22-year-old out of this summer’s Paris Olympics, where the United States will be coached by Emma Hayes, who will depart Chelsea at the end of this season to take over the US women’s national team.

Posting on X, Fishel shared a photograph of herself perched on two crutches and giving a thumbs-up, alongside a caption which read: “I’d like to thank my management and medical teams for a successful surgery today.

“I want to thank the United States women’s team and Chelsea Women for their unwavering support during this critical time.

“Exciting projects for 2024 are on the way and I look forward to sharing a more personal side of Mia.”

Fishel joined Chelsea from Mexican side Tigres on a three-year deal last August and has made 10 appearances for the Blues, scoring on her debut in October with a header in the Blues’ 2-1 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Holders Chelsea have been drawn to play at Manchester United in the Women’s FA Cup semi-finals and Tottenham will face Leicester at home.

Emma Hayes’ side take on United in a repeat of last season’s final, which the Blues won 1-0 to lift the trophy for a third consecutive year.

Spurs, who beat Manchester City on penalties in Sunday’s quarter-final, and Leicester, 2-0 winners at Liverpool in their last-eight clash on Saturday, have both reached the last four for the first time.

The semi-finals will take place over the weekend April 13-14, with the final to be held at Wembley on May 12.

This season’s semi-final winners will each receive £160,000, with the losers collecting £40,000.

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