All to play for at Barca and women go top of WSL1

BY PAUL LAGAN

paul@slpmedia.co.uk

Goal-scoring hero Willian is gunning for Manchester United in a crunch Premier League game at Old Trafford on Sunday, and is looking to get a hat-trick against his “friend” Jose Mourinho.

The Brazil winger scored a vital goal against Barcelona on Tuesday in the Champions League, but could have had three – he twice struck the woodwork, before slotting home the only goal for the Blues in a 1-1 draw.

“I almost had three against Barcelona and almost three against Hull City in the FA Cup last Friday, so a hat-trick is coming,” he said.

“It’s coming. I’m always ready to score goals. I think the hat-trick is coming soon. I just have to continue to do my job on the pitch.”

Chelsea’s head coach Antonio Conte has said that the challenge now is for Chelsea to keep producing performances like that against Manchester United and the following week against Manchester City – both away matches.

The Blues lie fourth in the league, three points adrift of United.

Willian said: “They will be difficult games. It is totally different playing in the Premier League to Champions League. I think we can stay at this level and we can go to Old Trafford on Sunday and play another great game. We have to play in a similar way.

“Against Manchester United, I think we can do a great job. A week later against Manchester City it will be like the game against Barcelona – they like to have the ball. We have to stay compact and use the same plan as we used against Barcelona. We can win these games, we will go there to try to win.

“Mourinho – he is my friend. I had a great time with him, but I am at Chelsea and he is now at Manchester United.”

Chelsea’s best performance of the season was their 2-1 win in Spain against Atletico Madrid – Will Willian take confidence into the match at the Camp Nou in three weeks’ time? “Yes of course,” he said.

“To play these games is totally different, but we want to play big games like this one. It’s really important. We tried to win on Tuesday and now we must go to the Camp Nou. It will be totally different, we must play with the same mentality, prepare well. If we do well, we can win the game there.”

With no Neymar – who went to PSG – will it be easier to face the Catalans? Willian is having none of it. “Barcelona is Barcelona with or without Neymar,” he said.

“Of course Neymar is a great player, but they have Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez, a number of good players.”

Marcos Alonso is focused on Manchester United but rues the missed chances to put Barcelona to the sword.

The former Fiorentina wing back said: “Yeah the way we draw is disappointing. We did a perfect game apart from that mistake. But it can happen to anyone. It’s happened, now we have to think about the next game, and not what happened on Tuesday.

“We take the positive stuff from the game. We showed that we can play and win a game against a big team like Barcelona. We have 90 minutes left against them. It won’t be easy, but we will fight until the end, for sure.

“We will play with no fear. We have very important games in the Premier League coming up against United and City and we have to focus on that now. “Then we will have to prepare for the return match in the Camp Now. Play well and try to do another good game there and see what happens.”

Chelsea Ladies boss Emma Hayes takes her charges to Manchester City tomorrow in what could well be a WSL1 title decider.

The Blues beat Yeovil Town Ladies 2-0 away on Wednesday night to leapfrog City to the top of the division.

 

Goals from Fran Kirby and Jonna Andersson was enough to see off the bottom-placed side who are yet to win or even score a league goal this season. To add to the joy, megabucks City surprisingly lost 2-0 away to Birmingham City ladies – their first defeat in any match this season.

Chelsea will be buoyed by the result and the clash of the top two sides in English women’s football means that it’s almost certainly a winner takes all. The match at the Academy Stadium is a 12.30pm kick-off.

Hayes said: “We do take one game at a time, but we knew we had the quality, to go to Yeovil and cause problems.

“Now we have got to recover as quickly as possible for City.

“We utilised the squad to the best effect, to keep them as fresh as possible for tomorrow. There are marginal differences between the teams but we can exploit some of that.” Has she a team in mind for City?

“No,” she said. “I don’t. I start with strategy first to win the game and then I will select the team. It goes in that order.”

Six Chelsea players are in Phil Neville’s first England squad for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup tri-team tournament next month in the US.

Among the regulars, Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Carly Telford and Karen Carney is the return to the squad after a two-year absence of Anita Asante. There is also a chance for Hannah Blundell to make her debut.

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