Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson insists that fans make all the difference as the Blues prepare to face Arsenal in the Women's FA Cup final at Wembley on Sunday, with a big crowd expected.
Eriksson has previously played in big games at Wembley both with and without supporters in attendance and more than 45,000 tickets sold makes it a special day for women’s football on what is the 100th anniversary of the FA’s unfathomable ban in 1921.
This is now the seventh consecutive Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley and Eriksson said that for Chelsea to be facing WSL leaders Arsenal in front of what is likely to be a record attendance for the competition ‘doesn’t really get better than that’.
“It’s an amazing stadium, an amazing experience, especially when you have fans there as well. I’ve played there previously with fans and without fans – and it’s not the same without the fans. The fans make the difference and I can’t wait to play there in front of a big crowd,” the Swede explained.
“I think most of us now realise the greatness of the FA Cup, the history of it and how big it is – it’s huge in England. I think everyone can feel it also with the amount of spectators that are expected to come on Sunday,” she went on to say.
“I don’t think I need to remind anyone of the importance of the game, maybe the reverse, actually – playing it down and saying, ‘It’s just another game of football, it’s nothing to extra nervous about.’”
Despite the excitement, Eriksson is very keen not to let it detract from Chelsea's focus.
“Myself and the team pride ourselves in preparing for every game the same as much as we can. That is the reason we’re at this point and why we have been successful for many years,” she said.
“It is the way we prepare for every single game like it is our cup final. Obviously, playing against Arsenal, we know they are a top, top team, so it’s going to us to be 100% ready and focused in everything we do.
“When I’m walking out, it’s going to be all about the game, starting right, getting tactical things right. Hopefully after the game I can enjoy it more, and enjoy a win.”
Eriksson described the 2018 final against Arsenal, when 45,423 people were watching at Wembley to see Chelsea win 3-1, as the ‘perfect experience’.
“It was my first really big game in England and is still one of the best days in my football career,” the two-time Olympic medallist commented. “I think it had everything – the fans, the win, the way we played, the way we celebrated after, it was just the perfect experience. Lot of good memories from playing at Wembley in that final and hopefully it will be similar on Sunday.”
Victory back then, however, will have no bearing on this weekend’s game.
“I view it as a nice memory,” she said. “It was a very long time ago and both our teams have gone through a lot of changes since then. Obviously, the experience of playing in finals is really important, but you have to utilise it on the day.”