The Blues return to WSL play following one of the most important victories in club history.
After dominating VfL Wolfsburg to the tune of 5-1 over two legs, Chelsea will be massive favorites at home against ninth-place Birmingham City — though the first meeting between the sides resulted in just a 1-0 Chelsea victory, courtesy of a Fran Kirby header in the opening 10 minutes. Birmingham were able to stifle the Blues attack for the remainder of the match, something very few sides have been capable of.
All eyes are on Chelsea’s next league match against Manchester City, a likely title decider, but anything less than three points against Birmingham would be hugely disappointing. It will be the second time in 24 hours that a team travels from the Midlands to face a heavily favored Chelsea side. Let’s all hope an embarrassment at home isn’t in store this time around, shall we?
Date / Time: Sunday, April 4th, 2021, 12:30 BST; 7:30am EDT; 5:00pm IST
Referee: Elizabeth Simms
Forecast: A sunny day in London
Chelsea FCW team news: The end of the season is becoming visible in the distance and Chelsea are right where we want to be: competing for multiple trophies.
After leaping into the semifinals of the Champions League, the Blues will look to tighten our grip on the top of the league table. With two weeks off before an FA Cup matchup against London City, Emma Hayes will have a full arsenal to select from, including Bethany England, who’s been cleared from concussion protocol. It’s unlikely that she’d be asked to play a full 90 minutes, but it is great to see her back in training.
The Blues struggled to finish against Birmingham in the first matchup and may roll with the scorching hot “Kerrby” duo to avoid repeated difficulties. Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten would both be decent bets to provide width in the attack. Jessie Fleming has performed well in recent appearances and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in some type of midfield grouping that also includes Ji So-yun. Jess Carter played well against Wolfsburg and may get another start at fullback, though Niamh Charles may be preferred against a Birmingham side that has offered little going forward. The goalkeeping artist known as AKB has been in commanding form but may give way to one of her two capable deputies in either Zećira Mušović or Carly Telford.
Birmingham City Women team news: Birmingham haven’t won a match since November and have struggled mightily in front of goal since, scoring only four goals in their previous ten matches. They are firmly in the relegation battle and drew 1-1 last weekend against fellow relegation candidates Bristol City.
Captain Christie Murray was the scorer on the day, netting her second goal in the league. Claudia Walker continues to lead the team in goals with five, but hasn’t found the back of the net since the turn of the year. No one would expect Birmingham to try to play adventurous football against the Blues, but holding Chelsea to a scoreless draw is nigh impossible. In order to come away with something, Birmingham are certain to need at least one goal. They may need a moment of individual brilliance to find it.
The struggles in attack are largely due to a playing style that accentuates the defensive strengths of the team. Hannah Hampton has handled herself admirably in goal at just 20 years of age. She’s consistently been protected by Rebecca Holloway and Harriet Scott in the backline. Defender Ruby Mace, just 17, played hero against West Ham recently, scoring a 94th-minute equalizer to steal an important point.
With big matches coming up against Reading and Aston Villa, Birmingham will hope to keep their confidence from being battered by the Blues.
Previously: Fran Kirby nodded home an early header as Chelsea slid by Birmingham City 1-0 in October’s reverse fixture.