Chelsea’s fourth, that’s right, FOURTH match versus Arsenal this season will be an FA Cup semifinal, though technically this will only be the third, in addition to last season’s FA Cup Final that was delayed until December.
Regardless of that technicality, Chelsea’s record in these four matches has run the gamut. The first league match was a wide open affair that featured five goals, the last being Beth Mead’s winner (scored from an offside run). The FA Cup Final was a dominant Chelsea win, as we pressed Arsenal into a shell of themselves to the point where they appeared noticeably wary of making forward passes. The second league match was frustratingly tense, Vivianne Miedema’s deeper role with Stina Blackstenius ahead causing all sorts of problems as we suffered through to a 0-0 draw.
That draw however gave Chelsea the point we needed to go top of the table, and as long as we keep winning, we will have a third consecutive WSL title in the bag, and fourth in the last five. And that makes this game and potential trophy — Manchester City await in the final — even more important, with Arsenal needing one to truly reestablish themselves as top contenders in England.
This might get dramatic.
Date / Time: Sunday, April 17, 2022, 12.30 BST; 7:30am EDT; 5pm IST
Venue: Meadow Park, Borehamwood, UK
Forecast: Sunny; 63°F/17°C
How to watch: BBC iPlayer & BBC Two (UK & Ireland); ESPN+ (U.S.); Sportsnet Now (Canada); Star+ & ESPN4 (Brazil)
Arsenal team news: England manager Sarina Wiegman relied on Beth Mead a lot during the two World Cup qualifiers, starting her in both matches, having her play 90 in a 10-0 win over North Macedonia, and 71 minutes of a 5-0 of Northern Ireland. Leah Williamson returned to the Lionesses XI and played 90 minutes next to Millie Bright against Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Caitlin Foord hopped continents along with Sam Kerr for Australia’s two friendlies versus New Zealand — they are the two host nations of the 2023 World Cup.
Chelsea team news: Fran Kirby has confirmed that she’s stepping aside from football indefinitely to focus on diagnosing and figuring out how to deal with the extreme fatigue issue that’s been affecting her for a while. Kirby hasn’t played since the 0-0 draw with Arsenal in February, so the team have learned to cope without her, but this is sad news. It’s particularly cruel for Kirby to have to endure any more time away from the game she loves.
In slightly better news, Bethany England’s run of form prior to the international break seemed a perfect opportunity for Wiegman to give her a look-in as the national team’s No.9. Then England tested positive for COVID-19 and had to return home to isolate. She eventually tested negative and rejoined camp ahead of the second qualifier and came on as a substitute in the 65th minute of a lopsided win over Northern Ireland.
The best news is that Pernille Harder has returned to training, and if she’s 100 per cent healthy, will be a massive boost to the team.
Previously: An exhausting 0-0 draw in mid-February. I personally wouldn’t watch the highlights before tomorrow’s match, but in case you’re braver than me, they’re below.