The FA WSL crown will go to one of the big three, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester City. That much is clear. But while Chelsea are unbeaten and seemingly in control, all that could change in the blink of an eye. One such blink could very well happen today as Chelsea, one point behind with a match in-hand, travel to Manchester to take on the league leaders.
City are a different proposition to all the other title-favorites. Facing Arsenal, for example, is always dangerous because once they score — and they always do — they can typically keep scoring, and it’s hard to keep up. In Chelsea’s most recent match versus the Gunners, the roles reversed and it was the Blues who buried Arsenal in goals. Manchester City score plenty as well, of course, but what they do best is stop other teams from scoring.
This season in the league, Manchester City have given up a total of six goals — in fifteen games. Six. 6! That is truly absurd. (Also, we’re responsible for two of the six so [insert purple devil smirk emoji]).
However, Chelsea are the more complete team. Having played one fewer game than City and Arsenal, the Blues have only conceded two more goals than City, but lead all teams with 44 goals scored (eight more than City, four more than Arsenal).
The key to Sunday’s match lies in the ‘one fewer game’ bit. With three points from Chelsea’s game in hand (against 6th place Everton), taking even just a point from City would keep the Blues in position to eventually leap to the top of the table with a win over less sturdy defensive opposition.
Of course, this Chelsea team never approached any match hoping for a draw, and rightly so. The Blues will be looking to once again make a statement, and finish the league season having done the double over both of our two biggest rivals.
Date / Time: Sunday, February 23, 2020; 2:00pm GMT; 9:00am EST; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Academy Stadium
Forecast: Light Rain, 42°F/6°C
How to watch: The FA Player is the only thing you need to watch every FA WSL match for free — yes, FREE — barring any applicable local broadcast rights. Did I mention it’s free? It’s super free. Sign up on the FA Player website, bookmark the site, save Chelsea Women FC’s fixture schedule, and keep checking WAGNH.
Chelsea team news: Finally whole again! Ji So-yun and Sam Kerr returned last week, and both saw match action in our fifth round FA Cup win over Liverpool on Monday (Ji started, Kerr was a 75th-minute sub).
Even better is that with the break, Erin Cuthbert found her sauce and, with three goals and four assists in her last five matches, and Guro Reiten is in her best form in a Chelsea shirt.
KIRBY UPDATE: We now know that Fran Kirby has been battling pericarditis, a scary condition that requires patience and inactivity to heal. However, Fran reports that she is feeling better and hopes that her recovery is progressing in a way that will allow her to get back on the pitch soon.
Manchester City team news: Even though Chelsea are a more rabid goalscoring force, City definitely possess extremely dangerous attacking players. Thirty-six goals in fifteen games isn’t as bonkers as the Blues’ forty-four in fourteen, but it’s still formidable. City and England’s Ellen White scored the same number of goals in the 2019 World Cup as Alex Morgan and Golden Boot-winner Megan Rapinoe — although it’s Germany’s Pauline Bremer who’s City’s top scorer with ten goals (six in her last five league matches).
But the real story is City’s defense.
England captain Stephanie Houghton anchors a stingy side, made even stingier by their last line of defense being the best goalkeeper in the league, 20-year-old Ellie Roebuck. Roebuck currently boasts an .889 save percentage, having stopped 40 of the 45 shots she’s faced. As such, City have ten clean sheets in their thirteen wins. Roebuck excels at positioning and communication with her back line, and on the rare occasion all that fails, she uses her instinctive quickness and remarkable range to keep shots out.
Previously: After City’s Caroline Weir put City up 1-0 in the 59th minute, Bethany England and Maren Mjelde scored two goals in two minutes (’79, ’81) to snatch the three points.
Sauce Moment of the Week: Sadly, Chelsea’s fifth round FA Cup match versus Liverpool wasn’t televised. It was a tough 1-0 win for the Blues, but the lone goal was Guro Reiten yeeting the ball through the goalkeeper, which is well worth a watch.