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Chelsea boss Hayes eyes ‘epic’ final as Blues go in search of double

Chelsea will face Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday evening.

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes is predicting an “epic” FA Cup final as her side bid to complete the first leg of what she believes would be a “massive achievement” in sealing the double.

The Blues sit at the summit of the Women’s Super League table with only four matches remaining and face rivals Arsenal in this season’s cup showpiece at Wembley on Saturday.

Hayes’ side, who knocked out holders Manchester City in the semi-finals, are looking to win their second FA Cup after claiming their first back in 2015.

Chelsea will face their London neighbours in a repeat of the 2016 final, in which the Gunners triumphed 1-0, in front of a record crowd of more than 40,000.

“The expectation to win is challenging,” Hayes said. “It’s harder to win games now, so the double would be a massive achievement.

“The game’s progress and the quality we face week in week out is so different to even two years ago. The physical levels make the game much closer and now it comes down to a tactical battle between the teams.

“The product has gone up a notch or two so it’s no surprise we are reaching record attendance numbers and I expect it to be an epic final.”

Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record 14 times, and have only ever lost one final – a 3-2 extra-time defeat to Everton in 2010.

Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-2 in their league fixture back in January before the sides played out a 1-1 draw last month.

But Blues midfielder Maren Mjelde does not believe those matches will carry any significance as she prepares for her first FA Cup final, and her first appearance on the Wembley stage.

“We can’t think about games already played because this is totally different as it’s a cup final,” the Norway captain said.

“We know we are going to play against a good team, but so do they. The team that wants it most will win, and we have no fear.

“I’m really looking forward to my first game at Wembley and there are a lot of jealous people in Norway right now.

“I’ve played in cup finals before but this is a step up. It will be really cool to play in front of such a big crowd. We’ve been strong all year, scoring a lot of goals. The game is going to be tough but we are a strong team.”

Arsenal head coach Joe Montemurro is not bothered by the fact his side head to Wembley as underdogs against a team who have not conceded on their cup run so far.

“Finals are finals and anything happens,” the Australian told Arsenal Player. “They’re different to league games and they’re different to other games, so as long as the attitude is right and we put our performance in to play our football, we have an excellent chance.

“I’m very much an under-the-radar coach who gets things done, no excuses and just making sure we focus on what we need to do. The hype and all that… it’s very important to channel that in the right way, the positive way. I’m happy to be the underdog and put all the pressure on Chelsea.”

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