‘This is the point Chelsea enjoy’: Cuthbert confident in Chelsea’s WSL title chances

Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert believes Chelsea are still in the driving seat to win the WSL title this season as the players shift their focus from international duty back to domestic action.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 just before the break to go level on 34 points with Chelsea, but the club from West London remain top because they have scored more goals.

Speaking after the defeat, Cuthbert was defiant about her team’s title chances, and said: “We’re top of the league and they’re coming for us, so we have to keep going and keep fighting.

“We have to dust ourselves down and post-international break we have to go up another gear.”

Retaining any title in professional sport is notoriously difficult, but under the guidance of Emma Hayes, The Blues have made it look easy by winning four consecutive league titles.

That a fifth in a row is even a possibility is an impressive feat, but Manchester City’s win, which ended Chelsea’s 22-game unbeaten home run, provided the biggest shift in momentum so far in the title race this season.

Cuthbert does not believe in the importance of momentum though, and said: “It shifts like wildfire, I think this is the business end of the season and this is the point Cheslea enjoy.

“We like playing lots of games, we like playing games that matter.”

Whilst she could be playing some old-fashioned mind games, Cuthbert’s assessment here is factually correct. Manchester City have not won a league title since 2016, and questions about the mentality of their squad in the defining part of the season remain unanswered.

However, the loss of Sam Kerr and Mia Fischel to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, as well as captain Millie Bright’s prolonged absence, are unexpected obstacles that will make Chelsea’s challenge even greater.

Whilst the signing of Mayra Ramirez, who scored her first goal in Chelsea’s cup win over Reading, was meant to fill the Sam Kerr void, Cuthbert believes “it’s not quite clicking at the minute”.

She said: “Mayra’s coming into a new team and it will take time but she’s shown her quality and what she can do so we just need to keep building connections with her.”

Time, though, is not a luxury that many teams have in football, let alone Chelsea, who are still competing in all four competitions this season.

A game nearly every three or four days for the remainder of the season will be mentally and physically grueling for everyone involved.

One positive is that Ramirez will get enough chances to build relationships with those around her because of the schedule, and if she is able to settle in, it could be the difference between winning trophies or falling agonizingly short in Hayes’ final season in charge.

In elite level sport, Cuthbert said success is “defined by small margins”, and for Chelsea to complete the almost unthinkable achievement that is the quadruple, all these margins will have to fall in their favour.

Hayes is purely focused on her team though, and regarding the closeness of the table, in typical maverick style, she said: “It always has been, that’s why I never pay attention to it.

“I always just focus on the performance, the preparation, then the performance, then the recovery, I don’t spend time looking up and down in the league. It’s like wasting time.”

Whilst Hayes will not openly admit it, she will also have to prioritise some games over others, and she has openly spoken about the disadvantage of being in the latter stages of a European competition.

Chelsea face Ajax over two legs in the Champions League quarter-final, with the first leg in Amsterdam next week.

If they were to win, then they would face European giants Barcelona, who have beaten them comprehensively in their last two encounters.

This is the one trophy that has continued to elude Hayes, therefore it would not be surprising to see some rotation to the starting eleven before they play a Champions League game.

For now, the focus is on a trip to Leicester on Sunday, a team they have beaten 9-0 and 8-0 in the same fixture in the last two seasons.

When asked about her feelings for the rest of the season, Cuthbert said: “There’s a fire in my belly… I’m certainly ready.”

The old cliché of ‘one game at a time’ will be a phrase to live by. There is a real opportunity for the players to give Emma Hayes a fitting send-off, cementing her legacy as the club’s best ever manager, but they risk losing it all if they focus too far ahead on the potential glory in front of them.

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