Experienced goalkeeper Emma Byrne wants her Arsenal team-mates to use their SSE Women’s FA Cup semi-final success to kick-start their Women’s Super League 1 season against Chelsea on Thursday.
In a strange twist thrown up by the fixtures, Arsenal face their FA Cup Final opponents less than a week after securing their place at Wembley with a 7-0 win over Sunderland.
Arsenal responded to having Emma Mitchell sent off after just 33 minutes with seven goals, including a Danielle van de Donk hat-trick, to book their 15th appearance in a Women’s FA Cup Final.
Arsenal v Chelsea
The FA WSL with BT Sport
6pm, Thursday 21 April 2016
Boreham Wood FC
Live on BT Sport
Click here to buy tickets
By Andrew Lawton
And Byrne paid tribute to her team-mates for showing their character after such an early set-back, saying: "After going down to ten women in the first half, it was a test and a little bit worrying but I knew the girls went into the game confident.
"We kicked on into second gear, it was great resolve and team spirit and I think it’s something we needed, to come together and something that shows how much of a team we are.
"It’s something we really needed - we needed to score goals to build confidence and I think that’s going to kick-off our season.
"The league is very important for us and we really want to get into the Champions League. We are going to be focusing on the league and not as a warm-up game for the Cup Final."
With Arsenal losing to Manchester City on the opening day of the WSL season, they know they cannot afford another slip up against a potential title contender.
Like their London rivals, Chelsea are also coming off the high of a Women’s FA Cup semi-final win, thanks to Fran Kirby’s extra-time winner against Manchester City.
And Chelsea full-back Hannah Blundell wants her side to continue improving their attacking play as they also look to build on last month’s 4-1 WSL 1 win over Doncaster Rovers Belles.
"We have brought in players who can score goals and that's what we are doing," she said.
"Last year, defensively we were very strong. We know the importance of keeping a clean sheet, because it gives us the platform to go forward and going forward we are scary for most teams.
"It's probably a little too early to call this game a title decider, because in this league anything can happen as we have seen in previous seasons.
"We know what to expect from Arsenal. We have been playing against them for many years and with it being a derby we should have a good crowd."