West Ham United manager Olli Harder is aware that his side enter Wednesday evening’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup semi-final clash as underdogs.
Any side would be; the Hammers’ opposition, Chelsea, are not only the current competition holders, but are also unbeaten in the Women’s Super League in a remarkable 33 games.
But when players show the requisite desire, ability and application – as West Ham are certain to do – such form counts for little in a one-off encounter.
West Ham also recently ran Chelsea close for their money when they put in a spirited display at Kingsmeadow in December, slipping to an eventual 3-2 defeat.
With memories of that match in mind, and aware that the Club could reach its first-ever League Cup final on Wednesday, West Ham have everything to play for, according to Harder.
The manager explained: “We know the quality that Chelsea has. It’s a semi-final of a cup and it’s a cliché, but anything can happen. We will focus on that as a priority for us.
“At the same time, we have games coming up that are big games for us in terms of the league, so we’re taking it one step at a time.
“I’m happy that we got everybody off the pitch after Manchester City fit, healthy and without injury. Now, we can look forward to a cup semi-final. We’ve recovered from the weekend and will crack on against Chelsea.”
In their previous outing, a 4-0 loss at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, the Hammers competed well for much of the first half but were eventually blown away by a clinical home side in the second half.
The objective is that the better we get as a team, progressing forward, the longer we can have those spells, which obviously makes us more competitive
Employing a compact shape combined with intensive pressing, West Ham enjoyed one particularly profitable spell in the match just prior to half-time, when they forced a quick succession of set-pieces from which they almost capitalised.
The Irons did seem to tire following the half-time whistle, but with new manager Harder still very much in the process of instigating his preferred playing style, the 35-year-old knows that such things will take time.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he smiled. “These spells will come. We’ll have similar spells against Chelsea and we’ll probably need to do the dirty stuff when defending as well.
"Obviously the objective is that the better we get as a team, progressing forward, the longer we can have those spells, which obviously makes us more competitive across the 90 minutes.”
West Ham United women travel to Chelsea on Wednesday 3 February in a behind-closed-doors fixture. Kick-off is at 5pm; you can watch all of the action live via the FA Player.