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The Guardian - UK

Taylor tips Manchester City and Chelsea to ‘slug it out’ in Women’s FA Cup final

Chelsea's Australian forward Sam Kerr (R) fights for the ball with Manchester City's English defender Lucy Bronze (L) during the League Cup final
Chelsea's Sam Kerr (right) and Manchester City's Lucy Bronze will challenge for honours again in Sunday’s FA Cup final. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Gareth Taylor expects Manchester City’s Women’s FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday to be a slugfest and is clear that even if his team fail to win their season has been a success.

City go into the game in sparkling form, having won 13 games in a row, a sequence that includes beating Emma Hayes’s side 3-1 in the League Cup final, the second trophy of Taylor’s three-year tenure after he guided his side to the 2020 FA Cup.

Victory against Reading on the final day of the Women’s Super League campaign secured Champions League qualification for City and they face a Chelsea team who are the FA Cup holders and WSL champions. Taylor is relishing Sunday’s showpiece.

“It’s going to be fantastic – it is two good teams going at it, slugging it out, two teams who have shown really good quality this season,” the manager said. “It’s great for fans of both teams to see their teams going at it; hopefully for the neutral as well it will be an exciting game. We hope to see some good football played, some good talent on display and worthy victors at the end.

“Of course it’s massive [to beat Chelsea]. We want to do it, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s a really healthy respect between the clubs, a healthy respect between the players, between myself and Emma, the two organisations. Why wouldn’t we commend what they’ve done? Emma’s been there a long time [10 years], she’s been supported, she’s won trophies, got to finals, she’s done amazingly well.

Emma Hayes has revealed Fran Kirby has completed a week’s training and will be available for Sunday’s FA Cup final. Kirby had been ruled out by the manager “for the foreseeable future” on 15 April as the club sought answers to a fatigue problem and there were concerns she would not return before the Euros this summer.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on her because I love that kid and she’s been through a lot, but she looked like she hadn’t been away, she looked that good in training and it’s nice to see the smile on her face,” Hayes said. “She’s been in training all week so I’m over the moon.”

Hayes described the forward, who missed much of the 2019-20 season with pericarditis, as a “generational talent”. “Rarely have I seen a football player that can do what she does in the way she finds space, makes decisions and plays with selfless attributes,” she said. “She has eyes in the back of her head. She is a winner every day. She is grumpy when it’s not going well because she wants to win so badly.”

Hayes revealed that she had had lunch with the prospective new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly on Friday. “He watched the girls train, [I] had a really lovely couple of hours with him. He was delightful, really passionate, he’s just a normal down-to-earth guy who’s really passionate about Chelsea, loves Chelsea. He’s ambitious, as we are, and it is a perfect fit.” Suzanne Wrack

“We’ve been there before in cup finals and so have Chelsea, so there’s no real edge for either team. It’s just who goes out and performs best.”

City’s closing phase of the campaign came after a start that featured four losses from the opening seven games. Taylor received criticism despite his squad being seriously hampered by injuries, the nadir a 5-0 loss at Arsenal in the league for which 10 players were unavailable.

“Unfortunately there is a lot of criticism out there – hopefully people have seen how we turned it around,” he said. “I was a player for more than 20 years; we do struggle to say: ‘Well done.’ Unfortunately we can all highlight the negative stuff. But even when we were missing huge personalities and players, what we were doing wasn’t a million miles off.”

The Manchester City manager, Gareth Taylor, at a post-match interview after the Women’s Super League game against Birmingham City.
The Manchester City Women’s manager, Gareth Taylor, says there is ‘no real edge for either team’ in the FA Cup final. Photograph: Shutterstock

Sam Kerr scored twice in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Arsenal in December’s Covid-delayed 2021 final. The Australian forward did the same in the final-day 4-2 victory over Manchester United that clinched the title, further underlining the threat she poses.

“Sam is a very good player but if we concentrate too much on her then we may neglect other very good players that Chelsea have,” Taylor said. “She was very gracious in defeat [after the League Cup final] – the way she handled herself was spectacular.”

Taylor will enjoy a good breakfast on Cup final day. “If you had asked me what I would have when I was a player I would have told you something to do with superstition but as I got to the end of my career I realised it was nonsense – it didn’t work,” he said. “So on Sunday if I see some nice pancakes on the side at the hotel they are making the day.”

Even if City do not lift the cup Taylor wants his players to have pride. “We want to win another trophy,” he said. “It’s one we’ve been successful in previously but whatever happens on Sunday, we’re proud of the season and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Demi Stokes is in contention again after a family issue and Jess Park is available after being injured since early last month.