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Emma Hayes challenges WSL champions Chelsea to find another level

Emma Hayes, pictured, has told Chelsea to get used to the fast-rising challenge in the WSL (Mike Egerton/PA)
Emma Hayes, pictured, has told Chelsea to get used to the fast-rising challenge in the WSL (Mike Egerton/PA)

Emma Hayes has told Chelsea to find ways to master the ever-increasing Women’s Super League challenge.

The reigning triple WSL champions host West Ham on Wednesday at Kingsmeadow, fresh from Sunday’s 2-0 home win over Manchester City.

Chelsea opened their latest title defence with a chastening 2-1 defeat by Liverpool at Prenton Park however, leading Hayes and company into some quick-fire reflection.

And Blues manager Hayes has told her players that the days of top-flight comfort are long gone.

“We all want life to be easy but it doesn’t happen like that,” said Hayes.

“Easy games don’t exist anymore so what I’m challenging my group to do is to manage hard better.

“It’s going to be hard, but accept it and manage it better.”

Lauren James starred in Chelsea’s hard-fought win over City on Sunday, when Fran Kirby’s goal and a Maren Mjelde penalty sealed three points.

WSL 5 To Watch File Photos
Lauren James, pictured, has started the new campaign in fine form for Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

James continues to thrive on the flank in Hayes’ side, with the 20-year-old primed to realise her rich potential.

But Hayes urged a note of caution while the powerful, pacy and intelligent forward continues to develop.

“Maybe being at home we’re more comfortable, but you must remember her age,” Hayes told Chelsea’s website.

“It’s important that we just take it one step at a time with her, but in the second half I thought she was exceptional.”

Players and officials will wear black armbands and a minute’s silence will be held on Wednesday night, in honour of late Chelsea ground staff member David McKnight.

West Ham will take on Chelsea with both sides having won once and lost once at the start of the new campaign.

Winger Izzy Atkinson believes the sixth-placed Hammers head across London with a good opportunity to knock over the fifth-placed champions.

“If we keep that aggression, keep that hard work, anything’s possible,” Atkinson told West Ham’s official website.

“It’s in the DNA, my Irish DNA, just to work hard and put your heart on the line, and that’s just what I’m always going to do.”

Republic of Ireland forward Atkinson impressed on her Hammers debut despite Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Boss Paul Konchesky now hopes to see the 20-year-old kick on and hit peak form.

“She’s shown how lively she can be in training since she joined us,” said Konchesky.

“It’s nice to give young players opportunities, and it shows as a club what we’re trying to do here.”