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17th Dec 2021

Emma Hayes says Covid strain played its part in Chelsea’s Champions League exit

Simon Lloyd

Hayes has added to calls for games to be postponed

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has said that anxiety over Covid was a major contributory factor in her side’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of Wolfsburg on Thursday night – a result which saw them eliminated from the Champions League.

Chelsea had started the game top of their group and would have progressed had they avoided defeat. Instead, they slumped to their heaviest defeat of the season. Though they finished the group level of points with the German side and Juventus, an inferior head-to-head record saw last season’s beaten finalists exit the competition.

In a brutally honest post-match press conference, Hayes admitted her team’s performance had been substandard. She also stressed, however, that the worry of escalating Covid cases in the UK had played a major part, after her team were struck by an outbreak at a similar time last year.

“This is going to be one of the more difficult post-game interviews I’ve ever had to give because I don’t expect anybody to understand,” she began.

“We had 20 cases of Covid last year that saw my entire team struck off and unable to go home and see their families. They don’t earn hundreds of thousands of pounds every week.

“A few days ago we had two players struck down with Covid and we know inevitably when we land tomorrow there will be positive cases. Our heads were all over the place, we are human beings.

“The stress, the anxiety, the worry of having to perform in a game when you’re thinking ‘I just want to go home, I haven’t seen my family, I’ve been to an Olympics. Oh no, another Christmas alone.’

“I’m not making excuses for the players but I can tell you that the last three days have been all over the place with worry that we have to play this game.

“So while fixture congestion is a thing, Covid is real. When you’re in a team environment, you know it spreads like wildfire.

“I’m gutted for the players because we all know that was nowhere near a team that represents my team.”

She added: “I just feel like this is déjà vu and we’re here again, 12 months on after a really, really bad Covid outbreak at exactly the same time last year. I think that played a major part in our performance tonight.”

A surge in Covid cases thought to be linked to the Omicron variant has seen several fixtures postponed across the men’s game this week. Earlier on Thursday, Brentford manager Thomas Frank became the first Premier League boss to call for games to be suspended.

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