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Manchester United WFC vs. Chelsea FCW, WSL: Preview, team news, how and what to watch

Are Chelsea back? Are United for real? Answers: TBD

Chelsea FC v Aston Villa - Barclays Women’s Super League Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Getty Images

The last time Chelsea faced Manchester United was on the final day of the 2021-22 WSL season, when Chelsea needed to win to secure the title by one point over Arsenal, and Manchester United were leading 2-1 at halftime. Sam Kerr equalized one minute into the second half, Guro Reiten put us ahead four minutes later, and in the 65th Kerr scored again to get the party officially started.

This, however, is a very different Manchester United team. Maybe? There’s no doubt that they did a lot of solid recruitment over the summer, and their record looks rather daunting. The Red Devils are 5-0-0 with the joint-most goals scored (tied on 14 with Chelsea and Arsenal) and, so far, zero goals conceded. That’s right, nary a ball has crossed their goal line in WSL play this season. It’s November.

As far as the much too early title race, the table looks jam-packed, with United, Arsenal and Chelsea all on 15 points. However, thanks to a scheduling imbalance and Chelsea’s opening day catastrophe versus Liverpool, the Blues have played one more game than United and Arsenal. Regardless, it’s a long season. Keeping pace is important, and taking points off would-be contenders is even more important.

Date / Time: Sunday, November 6, 18.45 BST; 1:45pm EST; 12:45am IST (next day)
Venue: Leigh Sports Village, Greater Manchester, UK
Referee: Cheryl Foster
Forecast: 50°F/10°C; Cloudy

On TV: Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Football (UK); elsewhere
Streaming: SKY GO Extra (UK); Paramount+ (USA); elsewhere

Chelsea Women v Manchester United Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

3 things to watch

Is ManU’s Defense For Real? - As mentioned, Manchester United have yet to concede a single goal in league play this season. They did have a hilarious group stage defeat to Championship side Durham WFC in the League Cup (3-1 on penalties after 2-2 draw), but their league record is spotless after five. However, those five include Reading (9th), West Ham (7th), Brighton (11th), Leicester (12th) and Everton (6th). Chelsea will be their toughest test yet, and how they respond will determine whether they’re serious title contenders or merely riding the wave of fortunate scheduling.

The Guro Reiten Show - Chelsea’s fluid back-4/back-3 has Magdalena Eriksson slotting in at left back, allowing Reiten more freedom than last season when she was often deployed at left wingback — and has gratefully repaid this freedom by delivering assists at a rate that would put Amazon to shame. Reiten has four assists in five league starts, and single-handedly helped Chelsea run all over Champions League opponents Vllaznia by dishing out four before being subbed off in the 74th minute. When Reiten is in sync with Chelsea’s attackers, popcorn is a must.

Homecomings - Former Chelsea defenders Hannah Blundell and Maria Thorisdottir will face off against their old club. Thorisdottir only played in two league games the season prior to her move to Manchester. Blundell, however, was in Chelsea’s academy since 2005, and joined the senior team in 2103. Emma Hayes struggled to find consistent playing time for the prospect, and since her move to United ahead of last season, she’s started 24 league matches, including all five this season.

On the Chelsea side, young star Lauren James will be facing her old club. James elected to join her brother and move back to London ahead of the 21/22 season. Emma Hayes and Chelsea took the patient approach in helping James recover fully from multiple injuries sustained while playing for United. The plan paid off, as she’s now started in five of six league matches and has looked every bit the superstar her talent promised.

The specific and weird karma that exists in football often dictates that former players have major impacts when facing their old clubs. If karma takes suggestions, a Lauren James hat-trick would do nicely.

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