LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 29, 2022: Liverpool women's players with the FA Women's Championship trophy during a parade around the city. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LFC Women “equipped” to compete in top division this season

Emma Hayes wants Chelsea to get even better ahead of the start of their Women’s Super League title defence.

Chelsea had been due to start their season against West Ham at Stamford Bridge last weekend but, with the opening-day programme postponed following the death of the Queen, the Blues will now kick-off at promoted Liverpool on Sunday.

“I just want to get better, I’m not focused on winning,” boss Hayes said at her pre-match press conference.

“I want to make sure training is top class and that the starters I select perform at the levels we demand in this environment.”

Five internationals – Kadeisha Buchanan, Jelena Cankovic, Eve Perisset, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Katerina Svitkova – have arrived since last season when Chelsea completed a league and FA Cup double.

Hayes said: “It’s nice always to see top players coming into our league and every single one of them has settled.

“It’s not a European championship where you’ve got to play maybe six games, those players have got to play 44 games minimally.”

Liverpool won last season’s FA Women’s Championship by an 11-point margin, and former Chelsea boss Matt Beard says his players are excited by the Prenton Park clash with the champions and the campaign ahead.

Beard said: “We feel we are equipped… and we can compete in this division.

“I feel the players we have added have strengthened the XI and competition for places. That was something that was really important to do, especially with the recruitment.

Chelsea are a fantastic team. But we will be setting up to try to get something out of the game, and I’m confident we can give a good account of ourselves.”

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 24, 2022: Liverpool's Katie Stengel (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the first goal during the FA Women’s Championship Round 21 match between Liverpool FC Women and Sheffield United FC Women at Prenton Park. (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

Manchester City, third last season, start out at Aston Villa after a summer that saw a large turnover of players.

Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze (both Barcelona), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich) and Caroline Weir (Real Madrid) were high-profile departures to Europe, while Ellen White, Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley all retired.

A new-look City squad includes Kerstin Casparij, Deyna Castellanos, Laia Aleixandri, Mary Fowler (Montpellier), Leila Ouahabi and goalkeeper Sandy MacIver.

Boss Gareth Taylor said: “I’d ask the fans to be patient because I think we’ve really invested in the future of these players.

“I think there was naturally going to be a fair-sized turnover at some point when you look at the nature of the group that left.

“For the supporters – we’re on the case. We are really trying to be the best version of ourselves.”

Tottenham begin their campaign at Leicester eager to build on last season’s fifth-place finish.

Rehanne Skinner’s side missed out on hosting Manchester United at the club’s 62,850-seater stadium last weekend but the Spurs boss hopes they will return there soon.

Skinner said: “Everyone can appreciate the scheduling around that with men’s games and broadcast games, it is a logistical challenge but the intent from the club is to get us in the stadium for as many games as we can.”

West Ham host Everton at Dagenham with new boss Paul Konchesky having made 12 summer signings.

“I’m really looking forward to my first competitive match,” said Konchesky, who spent two seasons as a West Ham player and scored in the 2006 FA Cup final against Liverpool.

“To be able to walk out for the first time and stand in the dugout in front of our fans – which will include some of my family – will be a special feeling.”