Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is expecting a monumental clash when her side attempt to overcome perennial contenders Arsenal in the Continental Cup final on Saturday.
The Gunners have lifted the trophy five times, more than any other club, and have only failed to reach the final once in the competition’s nine-year history.
“This is Arsenal’s trophy,” Hayes said.
“It is the one they have won the most in recent years, the one they have dominated so they won’t let go of easily – I expect a fight and an aggressive Arsenal performance.”
Chelsea beat Arsenal 4-1 in a ruthless display in their last meeting back in January, but Hayes expects a much sterner test when the two sides meet at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.
“They will defend their title with all their might,” the Chelsea manager continued.
“I think it’ll be much tougher than the league game. When Arsenal are at their best they are one of the top teams in Europe and I very much expect to see a strong performance from them.”
Since joining the club in 2012, Hayes has overseen two Women’s Super League titles and two FA Cup triumphs and is now looking to add the final piece of domestic silverware to her record.
The match also provides the Blues with the chance to win their first trophy since 2018 and their first with new signing Sam Kerr.
In contrast to Arsenal, who are without Beth Mead and captain Kim Little, Hayes is pleased to have a fully-fit squad to choose from after a gruelling start to the year that has seen Chelsea play 11 matches in two months.
“I have got all my players back in training, so it’s a fit and healthy squad going into the weekend,” Hayes said.
“The chunk from Christmas until now is a long stretch so keeping your freshness is crucial. Everybody’s really looking forward to the weekend.”
Chelsea are competing on three fronts this season and are unbeaten in the league, just one point behind Manchester City with a game in hand.
But the Continental Cup is the only trophy on Hayes’ mind.
“Getting to this final has been a challenge. You can’t win something you aren’t in,” Hayes said.
“We haven’t been able to make it here before so that jump at Manchester United was important psychologically for us to get to a point where we can compete for the title.
“It would be nice to go into the international break with our first trophy – this is one we really want to win.”