After the culmination of the international break this Tuesday, Manchester City face Birmingham City in the first match of the fourth gameweek of FAWSL action. Nick Cushing's side have picked up all of the nine points available to them so far, winning every match in every competition. They last faced a WSL tie at the end of September, where they defeated Everton 1-0 in Southport in a match that was in doubt for long periods due to the horrific rain, but Steph Houghton's free pick helped the points to fall in City's favour.
Birmingham have only played two matches of the 18/19 campaign, they were due to face Reading at home in gameweek three but the match was rained off and is still due to be replayed. The blues have failed to pick up any points this season, narrowly on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss in the first week against Everton after a Kerys Harrop own-goal, and then falling by the same margin away to West Ham United. They have never lost their first three games in a WSL campaign before.
The hosts have lost just one of their last WSL encounters with Birmingham City, losing 2-0 away from home in February 2018, whilst the midlands side have failed to pick up all three points in their past five matches at the Academy Stadium.
Manchester City are still struggling with a number of injuries that have damaged their side since the start of the season. Ellen White is not yet back from surgery on her knee, whilst fellow forward Georgia Stanway suffered damage away to Lugano and will be out of the squad. Just before the club's game away to Everton, it was confirmed that summer signing Laura Coombs would be out for at least six weeks following surgery on a knee injury. Jill Scott pulled out of the Lionesses' camp and may then miss tomorrow's game.
Birmingham, however, have not suffered the same level of injuries, and Marta Tejedor will have a full squad to select her side from on Saturday.
🚨 INJURY NEWS 🚨 @lauracoombs91 has suffered a knee injury and will undergo surgery shortly.— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 28, 2019
She is set to be sidelined for around six weeks as a result.
Wishing you a speedy recovery, Laura!
Manchester City - Roebuck (GK), Mannion, Houghton (c), Bonner, Stokes, Toland, Walsh, Weir, Beckie, Bremer, Wullaert
Birmingham City - Hampton (GK), Jordan, Holloway, Harrop (c), Scott, Arthur, Staniforth, Mayling, Visalli, Grant, Walker
Ones to watch
Manchester City - Pauline Bremer
The German has impressed so far, and has been City's main source of goals.
With no White or Stanway in Nick Cushing's squad, Bremer has made the step up and has been crucial to city's 100% start to the season. Starting two, she has scored the same number whilst being benched on one occasion. She netted a brace in the Continental Cup against Leicester, whilst hitting three over the two legs against FF Lugano in the Champions League. She told the Manchester Evening News this about her success so far:
"I'm just really happy to be on the pitch, I had a long time out with injury but that's over now. I'm glad I'm fit and feeling good.
"The most important [thing] is that we keep winning and of course I'm happy if I can put some balls in. It's unfortunate they [White and Stanway] got injured but we have a big squad and I feel like I have to step up a little bit now, I try to do my best on the pitch every day.
"Of course I'm happy if I can play but we need to make sure that we have a good team performance and that's just my job as well to finish the action and hopefully finish them with a goal."
Birmingham City - Hannah Hampton
The young keeper has been instrumental in the Blues' efforts
Only eighteen, she has already become a mainstay in Marta Tejedor's side, starting most of the club's FAWSL games in a 2018/19 season which saw them finish fourth. She has earned herself the number one spot for a number of Young Lionesses squads, and looks one of England's most promising talents.
With Birmingham not being the strongest of side's so far, Hampton could be crucial between the sticks against a team who have an impressive level of firepower for the division. It was a narrow 1-0 defeat in the midlands last time around, Georgia Stanway the only player on the scoresheet.
Both sides' views
City Youngster Jess Park spoke to mancity.com about the step up into the WSL and Birmigham's game:
“It’s more competitive, for sure and we’ve noticed better atmospheres and bigger crowds whenever we’ve played which is good for the game,” said Park. We just want to build on the start we’ve made and keep everything going.
“When we play, we all need to work hard and do the best we can, impact the game and by using the depth of the squad we have, we can keep things fresh and focused. We’re hoping for another good crowd against Birmingham City on Sunday and to just keep our winning run going.”
Birmingham player Claudia Walker gave her views on the game:
"It was disappointing to have Reading called off," said the striker. "We had prepared well for it and we were hopefully going to pick up our first points in the league. That's still the aim now going into Saturday. If anything, it's given us a bit more time to prepare and focus on what we want to get out of this game.
"It's one of the most exciting games in the league, it's the kind we all live for. You want to play against a team ranked as one of the best. Everyone is excited and more than ready for it."