Chelsea boss Emma Hayes says it is “business as usual” for her side as they prepare for Saturday’s Super League finale, looking to wrap up another title.
Ahead of the season’s concluding round of fixtures, the Blues – who have won the WSL five times and for each of the last three seasons – are two points clear of second-placed Manchester United, with a goal difference better by five.
Chelsea, aiming to complete a league and FA Cup double, play bottom side Reading away, while Marc Skinner’s United are at Liverpool.
24 hours to go until either @ChelseaFCW or @ManUtdWomen lift the #BarclaysWSL trophy!
Which player will be the difference maker? pic.twitter.com/dwh6PVnI0t
— Barclays Women’s Super League (@BarclaysWSL) May 26, 2023
Hayes told a press conference: “I think back to every campaign, we’ve only won the league by a couple of points at best, maybe (with) a game (to spare) somewhere along the line, so this is just business as usual for us.
“The preparation is what we’d prepared for at the very beginning of the season.
“It’s not like we’ve won leagues comfortably in the past – so nothing is different from our perspective. We’ve always known from previous experience it goes to the last game.”
A win to seal the title would be a seventh successive league victory for Chelsea, who have scored 24 goals in the past six games, conceding once.
Reading, meanwhile, have lost each of their last five games, conceding 16 times across their last four.
The Royals pulled off a shock 1-0 win at home against Chelsea last season, and Hayes said: “We don’t think about that. What we think about is we are exactly where we want to be – a position to control the outcome.
“I have to keep reminding the team we’re 90 minutes away from winning the title and all of my energy’s focused on doing that.”
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, United – guaranteed at least second, their first finish in a Champions League berth – have had their best WSL campaign to date, as well making a debut FA Cup final appearance, when they were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea and Skinner has said he feels his side do not “get enough credit”.
Asked about that comment, Hayes said: “They should. They’ve had an outstanding year. I’m sure Marc will build on that and make them even more competitive next year.”
Reading need to win to have any chance of surviving, lying two points adrift of 11th-placed Leicester, who have an inferior goal difference by three and go to Brighton.
Reading boss Kelly Chambers said: “If you just give up now or don’t believe then, for me, what’s the point of stepping out there on Saturday?
“There’s still a glimmer of hope there for us and we just have to give everything we can. If we are beaten by the better team, I can accept that – what I can’t accept is that we don’t turn up and fight for everything.”
Third-placed Arsenal look set to seal the final Champions League spot, currently three points clear of Manchester City and holding a goal difference advantage over them of 11.
In just two days…
Our final game of 2022/23 pic.twitter.com/udLtFwceQ6
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) May 25, 2023
Jonas Eidevall’s Gunners host fifth-placed Aston Villa, whose 21-goal forward Rachel Daly was named WSL player of the year on Friday, while Gareth Taylor’s City play Everton at home.
It would be the first time since 2014 that City have finished outside the European places.
Taylor said: “It’s fine margins between being successful in the season like Chelsea and where we’re at coming up short.
“With the group we have and the support, if we can squeeze more out of these players with another season, it’s exciting times.”
Saturday’s other match sees West Ham entertain Tottenham.
Meanwhile, according to Football Association statistics released on Friday, WSL attendances are up 173 per cent this season compared to the last, with the 2022-23 average being 5,272, up from 1,931.
The cumulative attendance for the current WSL campaign stands at 664,211, and all of the three highest-ever WSL crowds were achieved this season.
They were 47,367 for Arsenal against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium in September, 44,259 for Manchester City v Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in December, and 42,700 for Arsenal against Chelsea at the Emirates in January.