Chelsea boss Emma Hayes is backing her players to deal with the pressure of holding off the chasing pack as they close in on a third successive Women’s Super League title.
The Blues, who have won the league in five of the last seven seasons, entertain Reading on Sunday evening and currently sit a point clear of Arsenal at the top of the table with both sides having five games to play.
They have bounced back from the disappointment of League Cup final defeat with five successive wins in all competitions, the most recent of them last Sunday’s 9-0 demolition of Leicester.
Hayes, who will be without injured duo Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder, told the club’s official website: “We’re used to being in this position and to be honest the pressures… we don’t feel that because I’d rather be in the position where something’s within our control than the other way around.
“We know we’ve got a tough run-in; it doesn’t change. For us to win the league… we still have some really tricky opponents.
“We’ve just got to stay in our lane, keep doing the work every day and let the results take care of themselves.”
The fact that Chelsea have scored 22 goals in those last five games looks ominous for the Royals, although they are one of only two teams to have beaten Hayes’ side in the league this year with Deanne Rose’s goal securing a shock 1-0 win on December 11.
Reading manager Kelly Chambers told the club’s official website: “It’s going to be a tough encounter with the way they performed at the weekend and that scoreline, which reflected their performance, and they were very, very ruthless in front of goal.
“So yes, we’re not hiding from the fact it’ll be difficult, but for us it’s a case of stepping up to the occasion and probably stepping up higher than what we did in the home game because they are now playing for something extra, maintaining top position and a part of them thinking back to December.”
Arsenal will look to bounce back from their midweek Champions League exit at the hands of Wolfsburg when they travel to lowly Leicester at lunchtime.
The Gunners have lost only one league game to date, a 2-0 defeat at bottom-of-the-table Birmingham in January, and head coach Jonas Eidevall is expecting a response.
Eidevall told the club’s official website: “It’s one thing to lose one game, but we need to be ready for the next one and that requires a lot from everyone.”
Manchester United face Brighton as they attempt to reel in the top two, while Tottenham will hope to consolidate their place in the top five when they host Aston Villa.