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

Can the second match of the season be a must win? Maybe!

Chelsea Women v Manchester City Women - Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Both Chelsea and Manchester City are in the unenviable position of needing to bounce back from opening day losses. There are too many games to play to definitively state that a loss would end any potential title challenge, but Chelsea needed until the last day of the season to recover the three points lost to Arsenal in last year’s home opener — a six-point gap could be a serious obstacle.

This is, however, the first meeting of the presumed “Big 3”. Taking points off a direct rival is always crucial, a sensation surely heightened by the prospect of also throwing the first mound of dirt on one’s title chances.

It’s annoying that we’re in this position so early in the season, but we are, and three points is the only remedy.

Date / Time: Sunday, September 25, 16.00 BST; 11am EDT; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston Upon Thames, UK
Referee: Abi Byrne
Forecast: 62°F/17°C; Mostly cloudy

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

3 things to watch

  1. Midfield matchup — This summer Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City lost their entire midfield. Georgia Stanway went to Bayern Munich, Caroline Weir to Real Madrid and Keira Walsh left for Barcelona. That ... erm ... has had an impact. Aston Villa were able to key in on the rudimentary structure that Taylor’s new, patchwork midfield were implementing and pressed high to create chances and score goals. If Jessie Fleming has recovered from illness enough to rejoin the team (which training photos would suggest), then Chelsea will have every tool needed to dominate this matchup.
  2. Will the real CFCW please stand up — Emma Hayes is notorious for implementing big changes year over year. Two years ago it was an intense high press, last year a back 3. But when Pernille Harder went out in the warmup due to a tight hamstring, Hayes discarded plan A and put Sophie Ingle in the XI. Those two being very dissimilar players, that threw off whatever gameplan was worked on in training, and the performance showed. Assuming Hayes’ preferred lineup starts the match, we should see a much more cohesive Chelsea, by default if nothing else.
  3. Attacking threat — The aforementioned lineup change meant that a number of players were in positions in which they don’t particularly thrive. The result was Liverpool finishing the match with eighteen (18!) interceptions and Chelsea with just four shots on target. For a team that still had Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Guro Reiten and Lauren James in the XI, that was rather alarming. We hope Harder is fit enough to start her WSL season, but if not, there must be a much better response if we are to score our first goal(s) from open play.

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