Ladies preview: Big history, big rivalry, big match

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes expects Sunday's Continental Tyres Cup semi-final versus Man City at Kingsmeadow to be an 'epic encounter'.

Two points is all that separates the sides who have shared the last three WSL1 league titles – including the shortened Spring Series – at the top of this season's standings and we both have Women's Champions League quarter-finals to look forward to in March.

According to Hayes, all that points to this being a game which is not to be missed, with a place in the Continental Tyres Cup final awaiting the victor.

'Games like this are what you play for,' said the manager. 'Everyone knows Man City have produced performances over the past couple of years to become one of the top teams in the country and I think we’ll have to be at our absolute best if we’re going to make it to the final.

'We’ve shown we can come through tough tests this season and that will give confidence to the dressing room. They know they can deal with setbacks, and you’re going to need that against City, because they’ve got the firepower to score goals.

'This is an improved City team, so we’re going to have to use all our wisdom and experience to come through this. We’re a better team, but so are Man City. I really think this will be an epic encounter.'

Despite the fact our opponents only became a WSL side in 2014, this will be the fourth time we have met them at the semi-final stage of a cup competition, the last two of which, both in the Women's FA Cup, were won by the Blues.

'We have a history against Manchester City in both the domestic cup competitions. In the Continental Tyres Cup, they prevented us from getting to the final a few years back, but in the FA Cup semi-finals we have been victorious against them twice. That’s big history in a short period of time.

'Fran Kirby scored the winner last time with the last kick of the tie and these are the memories you want to create in football, those special moments that don’t come around all the time. That moment will live on in the history of Chelsea Ladies.'

The form of Kirby and her fellow forwards, Ramona Bachmann and Ji So-Yun, could be a big factor in the game, with the trio proving to be devastatingly effective in our most recent fixtures.

'As I’ve said many times before, I’ve got players on the bench who are good enough to be in the starting XI; players who are putting in performances in training every day,' she said. 'But those three players have set the tone at the moment. When they’re on it, we can produce not just scintillating football, but goals. Long may that continue, because if we’re going to win the big games then we need our biggest players to be on it.'

- Forward Millie Farrow, who progressed through our Centre of Excellence and into the first-team squad in 2015, has made a permanent move to Bristol City Women where she was previously on loan.

We thank Millie for her services to Chelsea Ladies and wish her well for the future.