two lifetimes six months have passed since Chelsea Women took to the pitch. When the Blues finally return on Saturday, familiar foes Manchester City shall await.
Last February’s 3-3 thriller stands as a reminder that these two (along with Arsenal) will likely battle each other up to the final day of the season. Last year, Chelsea Women were awarded the Women’s Super League title on a points-per-match basis, a fact which is undoubtedly stuck in the craw of new Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor. His squad finished the campaign with one more point, but finished in second.
The first Women’s Community Shield since 2008 will serve as an opportunity to get reacquainted under lower stakes.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 29, 2020, 12.30 BST; 7:30am EDT; 5pm IST
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Referee: Rebecca Welch; no VAR (unlike for the men’s game that follows after)
Forecast: Cooler with a chance of rain
On TV: BBC One (UK); none (USA); elsewhere
Streaming: BBC iPlayer (UK); ESPN+ (USA) — We (WAGNH) have an affiliate link for ESPN+ if you’re in the US and would like to sign up for the best value in sports streaming (or for the Disney-Hulu-ESPN+ bundle).
Manchester City WFC team news: As is customary with the Community Shield, the preceding season’s domestic champion, in this case Chelsea, take on the FA Cup winners from ... two years prior? As strange as that sounds, thanks to last year’s competition getting suspended due to COVID-19, Manchester City are still the current holders. (The 2019-20 FA Women’s Cup final is currently scheduled to be played in two months, on October 31!)
While the trophy holder hasn’t changed, several key faces on the Manchester City squad have. City went into the summer transfer market with guns blazing, bringing in two England international fullbacks in Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood — though they’re unlikely to play as they’re still finishing the season with Olympique Lyonnais who will be contesting the Women’s Champions League final on Sunday. In midfield, two high-quality American reinforcements have arrived in Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. Chloe Kelly, recently signed from Everton, is one of the bright young attackers in the WSL and joins the already dangerous duo of Lauren Hemp and Ellen White.
Chelsea FCW team news: Not to be outdone, WSL Manager of the Year Emma Hayes has also brought in reinforcements.
Here's what Emma Hayes had to say in her Community Shield press conference ahead of Saturday! pic.twitter.com/URd35NkZ83— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) August 27, 2020
Midfield depth has arrived in the form of Jessie Fleming and Melanie Leupolz. Fleming, capped almost 80 times by Canada already, recently completed her collegiate career at UCLA, where she was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, the award given to the nation’s best college soccer player. Hayes has touted Fleming as one of the top young talents in the game. Melanie Leupolz comes with even more experience, having captained the FC Bayern Women team and won gold with Germany at the 2016 Olympics. Niamh Charles is also a new arrival, a 21-year old promising winger, acquired from recently relegated Liverpool FC Women.
But it may be the presence of a rejuvenated Fran Kirby that feels like the biggest “addition” to last season. A focal point of the team, both on the pitch and in the locker room, Kirby was greatly missed last season, despite a highly successful year for the team. All reports indicate she is back, firing on all cylinders, and ready to grease the wheels of the vaunted Chelsea attack.
That Chelsea attack averaged over three goals per match last season, in all competitions. Bethany England, with a fresh new five-year contract, leads the front line. She took home the Barclay’s Player of the Season award last year, to go along with her 21 goals in 25 matches. The arrival of fellow superstar striker Sam Kerr in January, didn’t do anything to slow down England. Kerr was a boost to the squad last year, but figures to play an even bigger role in her first full season. Guro Reiten and Ji So-yun are once again expected to create abundant chances, as well as bag a few goals of their own.
Chelsea Women are equally solid at the back, where captain Magda Eriksson leads a defence that averaged fewer than one goal conceded per match last season.
There is excitement in both camps, not only about Saturday’s competition, but for the massive expectations both clubs have for themselves in the upcoming season. In a possible indication of growing national interest, this will be the first year the FA Community Shield men’s and women’s matches are played as a “double-header”. Hopefully the continued support will also lead to greater television coverage around the world as well.
Previously: The aforementioned 3-3 was indeed great fun, and, is turned out, the game that basically sealed Chelsea’s title.