Emma Hayes: Chelsea will not be complacent against Ajax because of ‘the fear of not being in that semifinal’

Ahead of their UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes and captain Erin Cuthbert spoke to the media to preview Wednesday night’s crucial game against Ajax. 

Hayes confirmed that Mayra Ramirez will be available for selection after making her return from injury against West Ham on Sunday, however Nathalie Bjorn won’t be available after being unable to complete this morning’s training session.

This game will be Chelsea’s seventh of the month, with one more game on Sunday 31st March against Arsenal in the Conti Cup Final, and Hayes was asked about whether that workload and the prospect of a cup final on the horizon will have any impact on her team selection. 

‘We only think about it one game at a time. We aren’t thinking about Sunday, we’re thinking about tomorrow. We know Ajax are going to be aggressive, we’re expecting that. This is a competition where only one team advances, so we are prepared for the aggression of the opponent. They’re a good side and it’s important for us to keep all our attention on tomorrow.’

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With club captain Millie Bright suffering a long-term injury, Erin Cuthbert has taken the reigns of captaincy whilst she’s out, and she spoke of how much she has learned during her short time with the armband and the unexpected responsibilities that have come with that. 

‘[I’m] taking more responsibility, everyone looks to you more and your behaviours, so on the pitch, I have to be super conscious of how I’m perceived, and maybe I’ve not really thought of that before. I think that I need to take more of a role off the pitch as well than I previously have, you have to deal with conversations, you have to do press conferences, so it’s all kind of new but I’m learning on the job and I’m really enjoying it.’

Hayes and Cuthbert have both spoken recently about how they feel they perform better as a team while facing adversity – something that cannot be said coming into this tie in such a comfortable position. Hayes was quick to shoot down any idea that there would be any complacency in the camp, and spoke on her mentality going into the game.

‘I know we share this in common as we’ve talked about it, the fear of losing or the fear of not being in that semi-final is, for us, as big a drive as it is a desire to win it. In fact, it’s more. There’s no one in our dressing room who will take tomorrow’s game lightly, or think that just because we’re winning 3-0 the game is over. When a team has nothing to lose at 3-0 down, they play with freedom, they play with a different way to express themselves.’

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Finally, with this being her last opportunity to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League at Chelsea before moving on to the US Women’s National Team position, Hayes played down the importance of finally winning this competition on her legacy, and explained what her goals in her final few months really are. 

‘Of course, if I was able to win the Champions League during my time here, it would be another unbelievable achievement, but I’ve said it time and time again, if my era is defined by one competition, it isn’t what matters most to me. What matters most is that I leave the shirt in a better place, that’s what I’m most invested in.’

Chelsea host Ajax at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night as they look to capitalise on their 3-0 win in the first leg to book their place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinal.