Chelsea’s Emma Hayes offered a damning update on Millie Bright’s fitness as the Blues prepare to host Paris FC in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The soon-to-be USWNT head coach also spoke highly of both Niamh Charles and Aggie Beever-Jones, whilst offering an insight into what fans can expect to see against the Paris-based visitors.
‘Millie’s 50/50 for tomorrow,’ admitted Hayes in her pre-match press conference. ‘Having so many games in quick succession, we’re managing her loading and we want to give her a little bit of extra time but I think she’s very much in doubt for tomorrow.’
‘As you know, prior to the World Cup she had surgery on her knee so her preparation going into the World Cup wasn’t ideal. She’s probably rushed herself back and she’s come back after the World Cup, very quickly into the Chelsea season and perhaps she needed a little bit longer, her knee’s a little bit angry at the minute. It’s not anything that’s too detrimental but I think we’re just listening to her body at the minute and going to take decisions on a day-to-day basis.’Embed from Getty Images
Hayes also offered her thoughts on Thursday’s opponents, explaining that they are ‘really organised, tough to break down and deserving of the position they’re in. They fluctuate between a 442 and a 4231, very narrow formations. They’re very compact, they’ll make it difficult to play between the spaces and they’re very good in transition, trying to get down the sides.’
‘As I’ve said before, I think we respect them. Look at the games they’ve won so far, I think in their opening match against BK Häcken they were equally good, just on the losing side. I think this will be an extremely tough game.’
Despite Chelsea having Alsu Abdullina on loan with Paris FC this season, Hayes insists that she ‘absolutely won’t give us any secrets! I know a lot of the girls will be excited to see her, she was such a popular member of the team here so everybody will be really looking forward to seeing her.’
Hayes was also questioned as to Niamh Charles’ development this season, with the England international having taken on heightened responsibility throughout the 2023/24 season. ‘I think it’s probably a question for her [Niamh Charles] rather than me,’ explained Hayes. ‘Only when you ask her will you know what her learnings have been. I think she’s been in this place for quite some time, I’d probably say February or March of last year and I don’t think she’s looked back.’Embed from Getty Images
‘I mean, I always intend to get the best out of her strengths. It’s just that she’s in form, it’s all coming together and I think she deserves a lot of credit for the work she’s done. It’s all been Niamh, she’s a top pro and for me, she’s a role model for many to look up to of what you can do with hard work and application… none of this is a surprise for us.’
The Chelsea boss was also full of praise for Aggie Beever-Jones, who missed out on a senior England call-up against the Netherlands and Scotland – despite netting four goals in just 129 minutes this season.
‘I think it’s great that Aggie [Beever-Jones] is in the conversations. I agree with Sarina [Wiegman], I think Aggie has work to do still – knowing when to go it alone in situations and when to link with others. But she’s such a good learner, I think unbelievably efficient in front of goal. The chances she’s got, she’s taken really well.’
‘There’s a competition going on between her and Sam [Kerr] on a daily basis which is fun to see, they’re driving standards for each other. Like I said, it’s good for her to be in the conversation but it’s also another good moment for us to show how important the loan season has been for us and Aggie has been the first Chelsea Women’s player to come through the academy system the whole way through. It’s been a long time coming and hopefully Aggie will be the first of many to come through.’