Chelsea boss Emma Hayes closing in on 'best' Women’s Super League title win

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Emma Hayes cools Chelsea quadruple talk ahead of Women’s Super League title decider - REUTERS
Emma Hayes cools Chelsea quadruple talk ahead of Women’s Super League title decider - REUTERS

After 35 weeks of fighting for the title, Chelsea and Manchester City both still have a chance of being crowned Women’s Super League champions in Sunday’s final round of games at the end of what Chelsea manager Emma Hayes believes has been the division’s “strongest ever” season.

Hayes’ team will win a record fourth title and become the first team to retain the trophy since 2014 if they beat Reading and she says: “We’ve looked the dominant team throughout the season. I think Man City have had a tremendous season, pushing us the whole way - I just hope we do enough on Sunday to cross the line.

“The fact it has been the strongest [season yet] will mean it would probably rank as the best title success. With the quality and depth across the league, every team is stacked.”

Chelsea, who won the League Cup in March and are through to next weekend’s European final, remain in contention for a potential quadruple of major trophies but Hayes insisted that prospect has not played on her mind.

“I’ve been here so long, I know that the minute you start thinking about something three weeks away or four titles away, you’ve lost," she added. It’s not that we don’t have an aspiration to do it, I’d love to do something like that, but there’s a reason why that hasn’t been done [since Arsenal in 2007]. That’s a difficult achievement.”

At the other end of the table, bottom side Bristol City know they must win away at Brighton if they are to have any chance of surviving. The West Country club are two points from safety and have a far inferior goal difference compared to their rivals.

Sitting just above the division’s only relegation spot are 11th-placed Aston Villa, who could drop straight back down to the Championship after just one season in the top flight if they lost at Arsenal. In 10th, Birmingham City are also now level on points with Villa, after being deducted one point by an independent tribunal on Friday.

Carla Ward’s team have essentially lost the point they picked up in a 1-1 home draw against Reading on 25th April, when - because of what Birmingham have admitted was an administrative error - midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn mistakenly played when she should have been suspended.

The West Midlands club left the Republic of Ireland international out of a cup tie instead and are understood to have thought the suspension had been served then, but league rules dictate suspensions can only be applied for WSL fixtures.

Littlejohn will also now miss Sunday’s home game against Tottenham, which could end with Ward’s team being relegated but only if they lose, Aston Villa avoid defeat at third-placed Arsenal and Bristol City win. Birmingham have also been fined £400, having admitted the charge of fielding an ineligible player.

Despite that, Bristol City are the team who have it all to do, and everybody knows the importance of staying in the WSL ahead of the introduction of next season's new, "landmark" £7m-per-year television rights deal. Their interim manager Matt Beard said: “If we’re not nervous, we wouldn’t be human. It’s a big game, everyone knows what’s at stake, but it's a normal week for us - I’ve just asked everyone to focus.

“It’s just one big performance from us and hopefully that’ll be enough for us. I’d prefer to be in our position than Aston Villa’s position, with their opponent, but if we don’t win it doesn’t make any difference what happens with Aston Villa. It’s going to be a tense afternoon.”

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