Hayes ‘won’t entertain’ idea of playing to avoid defeat in PSG clash

Emma Hayes will not get caught up in the permutations of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, and gave her opinion on the spate of ACL injuries in the women’s game.

Heading into the final game of Group A, the Blues are three points ahead of their French opponents in top spot. They would need to lose by two goals or more to not go through as group winners.

However, after suffering a shock exit in the group stages last season, Hayes says her side will not even entertain the idea of not going into every game aiming for victory.

“We play to win every game – that’s what you learn over the years,” Hayes said.

“Last year was such a learning curve for the team. When you go into a game where you say ‘oh as long as we don’t lose by a certain number’, it’s a catastrophic headspace and one I wouldn’t entertain at all.

“Training has been hard and it’s been hard for many reasons because if a team aspires for the biggest things, it has to train with that application… I expect that my team has the right approach and I’d be disappointed if it was otherwise.”

Women’s Champions League – how Group A stands

Teams Matches played Goal differnece Points
Chelsea 5 15 13
PSG 5 9 10
Real Madrid 5 -1 5
Vllaznia 5 -23 0

Hayes reported a largely clean bill of health for Thursday’s game at Stamford Bridge – in that all available players are fit – and will be hoping to still have the same situation come full-time, with ACL injuries ravaging other women’s teams across Europe.

When asked whether an increased fixture list could be a factor, Hayes replied: “It has nothing to do with playing more, in my opinion. This is not as simplistic as that.

“We don’t play anywhere near the number of games they play in the men’s game, but they don’t have the same number of this type of injury. It is a much bigger conversation that goes beyond this.

Group A permutations: Chelsea, PSG both through

  • Chelsea and PSG have already qualified for the quarter-finals. Real Madrid and Vllaznia are out.
  • Chelsea will finish first if they avoid defeat by two goals or more against PSG.

“There’s a huge conversation around it that is tragic for the players. It’s about knowledge around it to deliver what is required to keep players on the pitch.”

Chelsea will have a three-and-a-half-week winter break following the conclusion of the Champions League group stages, with their return to action coming against Arsenal in the WSL on January 15, live on Sky Sports.

Hayes will allow herself to switch off during the break – although says she is still finding her feet after a six-week absence following an emergency hysterotomy – and reflected on a seismic 2022 for women’s football.

“I feel happy for my staff and players that they get a break. For me personally, I’m just finding my feet again,” she added.

Katerina Svitkova netted Chelsea's third late on
Chelsea were 4-0 winners against Villaznia in the Champions League last week

“I would lie to you if I said I would be pouring over materials for the beginning of the year. Switch off means switch off and it’s there for a reason because you’ve got to create the headspace to be able to go and have another jump.

“My first thought when we get back, we’re going on a warm weather training camp, getting that preparation right, then going into the first game which just happens to be Arsenal.

“It’s the game everybody wants to see. It’s a top game with two top teams on top form – they’re the games I love the most.

“I think the gradual growth [of women’s football] has been happening anyway, there was already a solid foundation. It took an explosive moment like the Euros to almost inject steroids into the sport and fast forward our journey.

“But the foundations that are underpinning are able to cope with those challenges. It’s about sustaining where we are now and going again, especially with the World Cup next year.

“But what a wonderful year for women’s football and particularly the Lionesses. They’ve made the whole country proud of their achievements.”

Eriksson: A bad result against PSG will annoy me during the break

Emma Hayes was full of joy about Chelsea's maturity after full-time
Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson also spoke to the media ahead of the Champions League fixture

Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson agreed with her manager that the team will be aiming for an all-out victory, saying that any other result would leave her stewing over the winter break.

She said: “That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind [to not target a win]. We’re really happy and pleased that we’ve already qualified from this tough group, but we go into every single game we play with the objective to win.

“I think it’s a great test for us tomorrow to see where we’re at against another top team in Europe. We’re going to go all in and hopefully get a win before we go into our Christmas break.

“I’m the type of person that if I don’t get a good result tomorrow, I’m going to be annoyed for the whole Christmas break. I know the game is my first priority then if we get a good result, I know I’m going to enjoy it.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Reading.

“It’s been a lot of games, a lot of travel so definitely looking forward to some downtime with the family. I’m going home [to Sweden], I haven’t been home to see my family in maybe six months so I’m looking forward to it.”

Recent injuries in the WSL have seen Vivianne Miedema and her partner and Arsenal team-mate Beth Mead both sustain ACL injuries without weeks of one another.

Eriksson is in a relationship with injured Chelsea team-mate Pernille Harder, and was asked how having the support and understanding of a fellow footballer can help during such a period.

“It’s really nice to have someone who knows what you’re going through,” she said. “I’ve had to be Pernille’s rock during these first weeks of hers [injury], but she’s also always been my rock.

“She’s the one who helps me with how I should deal with difficult moments in my career or on the pitch. It’s really nice to have someone close to you who understands what you’re going through and knows exactly the right things to say.”

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