Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has criticised the scheduling of the Women’s FA Cup final ahead of her side’s clash with Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.
The match will determine the winner of the 2020-21 competition that was delayed initially because of the coronavirus pandemic. This meant that all matches from the quarter-finals onwards were played this season.
While this year’s final has been a long time coming, it follows the recent international break and comes just three days before Chelsea host Juventus in the Champions League next Wednesday and six days before they face Reading in the WSL.
Hayes said she was excited about the final being played at Wembley but stressed that the FA need to consider player welfare more.
"I understand the FA want to fit it on an important weekend. I totally get it,” she emphasised.
"But, getting back to our welfare, we've got three games in six days, on the back of them coming back from an international break. I think you could have done that better.
"But it's here. I don't want the focus to be on that. It needs to be on what the women's game is about. We need to promote it, celebrate it and acknowledge everyone around it, past and present."
For Chelsea, a lot depends on whether star striker Sam Kerr can maintain her lethal form in front of goal.
The forward has scored nine times already in the WSL but has only just returned from Australia, having played twice for her country against the United States.
It remains a concern how match-ready the Aussie will be for Sunday, though Hayes stated that she’d be “raring to go” for the big match.
"She can't train, we have to get her fresh. But Sam is a top professional and we have sleep plans, recovery plans for these players, and Sam will follow that.
"I spoke with her and she said she feels much better than she did last time she returned. She'll give what her best can be because these players are used to doing that, even if it's not best for them. It's Sam Kerr, she'll be fit and ready to go come Sunday."
The final will mark exactly 100 years since the FA imposed a ban on women’s football that lasted half a century.
This will be the 50th time two women’s teams have battled for FA Cup glory and if the form of both Chelsea and Arsenal is anything to go by, this could well be one of the best to date.