If there’s ever been a match to define the concept of a “six-point game”, this meeting between Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the Women’s Super League is one of the best examples. The two favorites for the title battle it out for the first time this season, in front of what should be (close to) a capacity crowd at the Emirates.
This also marks the beginning of a very congested ten days for the Blues, with four matches on tap, including two in the Champions League group stage. Proper use of our squad depth will be key if we are to maintain our unbeaten run, now at 18 games stretching back to last season, and thus our place at the top.
Date / Time: Sunday, December 9, 2023, 12.30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, UK
Referee: Rebecca Welch
Forecast: Heavy rain and a moderate breeze
On TV: none (US); BBC Two (UK); elsewhere
Streaming: Paramount +, CBS Sports Golazo (US); BBC iPlayer (UK)
Arsenal team news: Unlike many teams in the league, Arsenal did not go through a massive squad overhaul in the summer. They only shored up an already solid group by signing the likes of midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross and forward Alessia Russo, while extending the contracts of Frida Maanum, Caitlin Foord and Katie McCabe.
However neither the old nor the new players were able to get Arsenal through to the group stage of the Champions League, as they fell to Paris FC (who are in our group) in the qualifying rounds. But with their focus fully on domestic competitions, they have now won eight in a row, since a 2-2 draw against Manchester United on October 6th.
They’ve done so despite the absences of defenders Leah Williamson, Laura Wienroither and Teyah Goldie, all of whom are out with ACL injuries. Attacker Lina Hurtig is also unlikely to feature, having picked up an injury during the international break while playing for the Swedish national team.
“This is where it comes into saying you might have visions, dreams, goals for it but the reality is, when I came two and a half seasons ago and we were playing Chelsea at the Emirates with less than 10,000 people at the Emirates, now we’re talking about a sellout, that’s tremendous growth. It’s down to so many people doing great work and that’s of course the players.
“Those are the ones that drive the excitement of the league and the matches, but also off the pitch the club’s commercial, communication departments, the supporters, everything comes together and you need everyone in order to get this growth. It can’t be driven by a few, it has to be driven by many.”
-Jonas Eidevall; source: Arsenal FC
Chelsea team news: It’s been almost eight months since Chelsea last tasted defeat, 1-0 to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final last season. We’ve been close to ending this amazing run a few times since, but have escaped with narrow wins and draws when necessary — such as the 90th-minute equalizer by Guro Reiten away to Manchester City earlier this season.
Speaking of Guro, she should be back for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in late October. Melanie Leupolz is also expected to return, but Millie Bright, Kateřina Svitková, and Catarina Macario remain out. And unfortunately Aniek Nouwen will be out for the foreseeable future after suffering an ACL tear during the international break.
We can certainly expect an hostile atmosphere in this one, but Emma Hayes is more than confident in our ability to deal with this external pressure and rise to the occasion.
“We’re the away team, there are things you have to factor in when you play away from home and we get all of that clear. We’re used to playing so many high-level games, we just approach them as we always do.
“I think my team’s used to the large crowds, to be honest, in the Champions League and domestically. These girls all play international football. The crowd is something we focus on the least amount but we’re very grateful it’s going to be packed, because it’s always much more enjoyable when it is.”
-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC
Previously: A 2-0 win in a tightly contested match at Kingsmeadow, which avenged (to a small extent) our defeat to the Gunners in the Women’s League Cup final.