Ward wants Aston Villa to ‘take the opportunity’ in Women’s FA Cup semi-final vs Chelsea
CARLA WARD wants Aston Villa to show respect for Chelsea but not fear if they see a historic FA Cup upset.
The Villans boss, 39, expects senior England stars like Jordan Nobbs and Rachel Daly to compete in tonight’s semi-final game.
They are aiming for their first showpiece – while the Blues seek a third straight trophy
The winners of that clash meet cup final debutants Manchester United at Wembley on 14 May after beating Brighton 3-2 in the semi-finals.
Villa’s home game comes a fortnight after their 3-0 defeat by Emma Hayes’ side in WSL.
Ward said: “Chelsea are standing in our way and it’s not an easy task. We should respect them but never fear them.
“That has to be the message because they are an incredible team.
“They have a wealth of world-class talent. We know that, but this is a one-time game.
“The game before the international break will probably help us a lot, we’ve learned a lot from it.
“It’s about bringing that into this game now and trying to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The tie will draw one of the largest crowds to Bescot Stadium.
At least three grandstands at the site are expected to be filled with a capacity of 11,300.
Ward is hoping to capitalize on the experience of the likes of Scotland’s Rachel Corsie, Daly and Nobbs, the former Arsenal star who has won four FA Cups in north London.
Boss Ward added: “This is a big, big occasion and we’re going to need big players to stand up and do whatever it takes to help everyone get through it.
“There are also our national players who played on the big stage.
“We have players who were in that position and we have players who weren’t.
“We have to rely on those who were there for their experience and also on those who don’t really have to enjoy the moment.”
Villa’s run was hailed by their Premier League peers, with men’s coach Unai Emery declaring the club “have to be proud”.
And the prospect of reaching the final brought back fond memories for Ward of her playing days.
She said: “I would be lying if I said I didn’t dream about it. It would be a big moment for us.
“I got through to the third round proper when I was in Newquay – I think we lost 9-0 to Arsenal.
“But it felt like the greatest day ever, before about 2,000 people back then, but it sounded like 22,000 people.
“You always remember those moments in the FA Cup and now here is an opportunity for us to go there.”
A win for Chelsea could see them one step closer to winning a fifth FA Cup under Hayes.
However, they will be without defenders Millie Bright and Kadeisha Buchanan as the Canada centre-back picked up an injury during the international break.
Hayes expects her side to be aggressively challenged by Villa.
The 46-year-old Blues boss said: “Every year it gets harder because other teams get hungrier.
“Carla has done a great job. She built a team that was very efficient against the top teams – especially in set pieces and transitions.
“I would expect an aggressive display from Villa at home.
“It will be a completely different game, a difficult game – and anything can happen.”