Within hours of each other, Chelsea’s men and women play mirror FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday… the men (in yellow) at Wembley, and the women at Arsenal’s Boreham Wood ground. Emma Hayes mused that, with a sell-out crowd at the Gooners’ stadium, the time must be approaching when the women’s semis could also be staged
Within hours of each other, Chelsea’s men and women play mirror FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday… the men (in yellow) at Wembley, and the women at Arsenal’s Boreham Wood ground.
Emma Hayes mused that, with a sell-out crowd at the Gooners’ stadium, the time must be approaching when the women’s semis could also be staged at a neutral ground.
“Maybe we need to have a conversation for the future about whether the women’s semi-finals should be treated in the same way as the men,” she said, to accommodate more fans. Perhaps not Wembley, but a large neutral venue than, say Boreham Wood.
She’s assessing her players’ fitness after their recent internationals, but reckons that Pernille Harder is back in the reckoning. Fran Kirby, however, is still suffering from a mystery tiredness, and until her energy levels return she won’t feature for the Blues.
“There’s no chance of her playing at the weekend,” said Hayes. “She’s been suffering from a lot of fatigue, and we don’t know why. But we’re trying to get to the bottom of it; it’s something that’s ongoing.”
Hayes relishes duels against her old club, Arsenal. “They’ve had a tremendous season, they really have,” she said. “We’re neck and neck with them the whole way.”
The women play Arsenal at lunchtime (BBC2), with the men taking on Palace at 4.30pm at the national stadium (ITV).
Thomas Tuchel, at his pre-match press conference on Good Friday morning, brushed aside fresh news about sanction pressure on Chelsea’s old board of directors. “We just hope things will calm down,” he said.
On the Palace game he admitted that he’d had a chance meeting with loanee Conor Gallagher as the pair bumped into each other at a restaurant… and, no, he hadn’t paid Gallagher’s bill to compensate for the influential player missing the big game because of the loan contract terms!
“We just met by coincidence and, yes, I apologised to him,” said Tuchel, who acknowledges that his having such a good season at Selhurst Park means he’ll be missed in the Eagles’ team.
Hayes, incidentally, was glued to the telly to watch the Blues’ heroic, though ultimately fruitless, second-leg Champions League battle in Madrid against Real. “It was a masterful performance away at the Bernabeu. I love watching the boys play, and I was absolutely devasted [about the outcome]. The girls watch the players all the time – we learn by watching each other play… it’s part of our job!”