The whirlwind that overtook the world of football for 48 hours appears to be abating, and we can all look forward to what we actually enjoy about all this: you know, watching football. And in this case, it’s not just any football, but a high-stakes meeting between two of the biggest rivals in the women’s game. The winners will almost assuredly be crowned 2020-21 WSL champions at the end of the season.
Chelsea and Manchester City have been on this collision course for some time, knowing that the league title would likely come down to this meeting. The upper hand has belonged to Chelsea, beating City in our two most recent meetings, once in the WSL and once in the Continental Cup. Despite that recent advantage, this is anyone’s match.
Emma Hayes and Chelsea stand on the brink of winning a second consecutive WSL title and it’s only fitting that we’ll have a chance to (effectively) achieve it against one of our most bitter rivals.
Date / Time: Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, 18.00 BST; 1pm EDT; 10:30pm IST
Venue: Academy Stadium
Referee: Rebecca Welch
Forecast: Mild, Clear
Manchester City WFC team news: Manchester City boast a very talented and deep roster, but they are expected to be without a key cog as captain Steph Houghton continues to recover. After picking up an Achilles injury against Fiorentina several weeks ago, Houghton is being evaluated week-to-week, according to manager Gareth Taylor. In her absence, Keira Walsh and Ellen White have served as captains. White is the leading goal-scorer for a potent attack, capable of scoring from any position. Chloe Kelly has racked up eleven assists, operating down the flanks. The Blues will need to be very wary of Kelly using her pace to get in behind Chelsea’s back line.
To add to their attacking threat, Manchester City boast two excellent full backs in Alex Greenwood and Lucy Bronze. Bronze is particularly a nuisance, both defending and going forward. Chelsea scored seven in the two prior meetings with City, in part because of how little they actually have to play defense normally. It will be interesting to see how aggressive Manchester City play from the opening whistle in this one.
City’s midfield is particularly stacked, and Taylor’s selections are not easy to predict. Keira Walsh and Caroline Weir are often chosen, and have been frequently joined by Sam Mewis. Rose Lavelle, Jill Scott, and Laura Coombs are all excellent options as well. Young Ellie Roebuck has conceded just 11 goals in 18 WSL matches, including the three Chelsea put by her back in October.
Chelsea FCW team news: Cross your fingers that Magda Eriksson is included in the starting lineup. The Blues skipper suffered a “minor” knock near the end of our FA Cup win over London City last weekend. Hopefully it actually is just minor and she’ll be fully fit for the match. After losing Maren Mjelde earlier in the season, the backline can hardly afford another loss. That’s particularly true about the captain, during our most important stretch of the season. Niamh Charles has been impressive in her limited opportunities at fullback, and her pace may be put to the test against the speed of City’s wide players.
Bethany England hasn’t played her normal allotment of minutes since returning from a concussion several weeks ago, but her pace could be a difference-maker against a Manchester City side used to playing high up the pitch. But if there ever was a time to employ the full power of “KERRBY”, this is it. Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby have been the image of consistent production: they have combined to score 31(!) league goals and have connected for 16 assists to boot. I can’t imagine a better duo in whom to trust and rest our hopes.
Previously: En route to their second consecutive Continental League Cup trophy, Chelsea beat Manchester City 4-2 back in January.