WSL: Carla Ward expects ‘wounded’ Chelsea to respond vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward looks during a match
Aston Villa manager Carla Ward looks on prior to the Women's Super League match vs Chelsea on April 02, 2023 in Walsall, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Tonight, Aston Villa will face a wounded Chelsea at Kingsmeadow in the Women’s Super League. Villa manager Carla Ward assures that her squad are ‘fully focused’ and ‘ready for the game’.

Before the break, the Villans were left frustrated after sharing the points with Leicester City at home. This week, Villa will face an even more frustrated Chelsea side, following their defeats in the Conti Cup and FA Cup.

Rachel Daly’s retirement from England

The end of the international break saw Lionesses fans heartbroken as 32-year-old Rachel Daly announced her retirement from international football. While a shock to many, she revealed it was a decision she had been thinking about for a while. Speaking via England’s YouTube channel, Villa’s No.9 mentions her concentration now switching to club football, as well as spending time with her loved ones.

On Daly’s decision, Villa manager Carla Ward said: “It’s no secret, me and Rach have a really good relationship and I think we’ve spoken about it for a period of time now. I knew going into this camp that this was going to be her last camp.

“She’ll go down as an England legend that’s for sure. She’s certainly left a legacy and she’s inspired a generation and, you know what, she’s not finished yet. She wants to continue to inspire on and off the pitch and she’ll do that. I think we have a wonderful human being in this building now, with her full focus on Aston Villa.”

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A mixture of injury updates

Elsewhere in the Villa team, there have been positive changes for both Lucy Parker and Lucy Staniforth. After suffering ankle injuries, they are both now ‘back on the grass’. With Ward envisioning that ‘one would be back next week maybe and then the following week, the other.’

In more good news, after picking up a calf injury against Arsenal in the Conti Cup, Kirsty Hanson ‘will be back in contention’ for tomorrow.

“She’s been back in training for a week so we will manage her minutes, but she’s back in the squad,” Ward explained.

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However, it won’t be the same for defender Maz Pacheco, who the Villans boss revealed is out with a low-grade hamstring injury. Ward imagines the 25-year-old will only sit on the sidelines for ‘a couple of weeks at most’, however.

Ward went on to express potential doubts over a couple of players who have come back from the international break. She did add though that ‘overall, everyone else has come back in good health.’ Those who played a lengthy amount of minutes across the break will continue to be assessed.

‘A wounded animal is a dangerous animal’

Emma Hayes’ side will seek to regain their winning momentum after narrowly missing out on trophies in both the Conti Cup and the FA Cup. From being favoured for the quadruple, they now rest with hopes of winning the WSL and the Champions League. With their semi-final fixtures against Barcelona fast approaching, Chelsea will want to take the win to boost their winning spirit in preparation.

“A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. I think it’s as clear as that. Emma and her team, they’re mentality monsters, we know that. You know they’re hurting and you don’t ever want to play a team that’s hurting, especially a Chelsea team,” Ward stated ahead of the clash.

“They will want to react and I have absolutely no doubt they will react. They’re world-class, they’ve got a world-class manager, they’ll be ready and they’ll want to put things right and make sure they stay on track to win the league.”

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Villa vs Chelsea: Last time out

In the reverse fixture in November, Hayes’ side got the statement win that they’ll want to replicate this time around. A 6-0 victory for Chelsea was a big hit on Villa, and at the time made it five defeats on the bounce for the West Midlands side.

“That hurt, that really hurt. It hurt me, it hurt the staff, it hurt the players, it was a bad day in terms of where we were at.”

However, that moment was a turning point for her team in Ward’s eyes.

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“I think after that, it was a reset moment. I think we knew where we were, we weren’t happy with what we were doing. Since then, we’ve picked up points and we’ve looked to kick on and we’ve done that.”

As the season draws to a close, Ward remains focused on finishing within the top six.

“We will continue until it’s out of our control. We’ll continue to try and reach that top six but we know it’s proving to be difficult as the game’s whittled down. Four games to go, we want to take something from all four and we will give everything to do so.”

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