This is the first of three trophies that Chelsea could win this season along with the WSL title and the FA Cup – the 2021 Community Shield was not held because of an overlap with the Tokyo Olympics and the Blues were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage by Wolfsburg in December.
Meanwhile, City are looking for their first major trophy since 2020 – when they won the FA Cup – and after a shaky start to the WSL season have managed to find some form in all three domestic competitions.
However, City have lost to Chelsea on all three occasions they have met this season – a 4-0 home thrashing, a tight 1-0 loss away in February, which ended a 10 match unbeaten run, and a 3-0 loss in the rearranged 2021 FA Cup semi-final in October.
‘We’ve got to go out and earn it’
It was not the easiest start to the WSL season for City as injuries to key players Ellie Roebuck, Lucy Bronze, Chloe Kelly and Esme Morgan took their toll.
They lost to West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham early on and City boss Gareth Taylor’s job was called into question when his side seemed to already be out of title contention by December.
Taylor has never lifted the Continental Cup with City and sees it as “a great opportunity” to show how far they have come since their early-season struggles.
“It’s a game we’re ready for, he said. “It’s a testament to how we’ve stuck to our principles and worked our way out of a storm of massive injuries. We’re still not completely out of the woods but things have been healthy over the past couple of months.
“Having a healthier squad to choose from has helped us but the main thing has been sticking to our principles and beliefs. Making sure that we’ve really got our plan A spot on – sometimes it was difficult for us to achieve that with the lack of support the squad had in terms of able bodies fit enough to execute it.”
Former Manchester City men’s player Taylor said the loss of captain Steph Houghton, who remains sidelined with a serious knee injury, is a “massive blow” and added that they could also be without Vicky Losada, who picked up a knock in their 4-1 FA Cup victory over Manchester United.
City had a tough run to the final with four of their five group-stage opponents WSL sides, while Chelsea automatically qualified for the quarter-final stage.
But she insists that it is “business as usual” on the pitch.
“I’m looking forward to it – it’s two top teams who always have closely contested games and I hope will provide a real spectacle for a final,” she said.
Chelsea, who beat Manchester United 3-1 to reach the final, have won the past two League Cups and will look to make it a third consecutive win on Saturday, but have never faced City in a major final before.
“There will be an intrigue – we’ve had epic cup games over the years but to play in a final… both teams really wanted to face each other in a final and we got our wish,” she said.
Chelsea are unbeaten in each of their past 10 WSL matches against City, winning four and drawing six, and Hayes relishes playing against them.
“In the past six or seven years it’s been so closely contested,” she added. “There’s zero to separate us year on year. I respect them as a football club and what they’ve done for women’s football.
“There’s a lot of collaboration off the pitch to make sure we help each other and I’ve always valued that relationship.”
Hayes confirmed club captain Magda Eriksson will return to the squad after recovering from an ankle injury and that her “input, insight and wisdom” is invaluable – but the Blues will be without Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz.