Manchester City return to the Academy Stadium to host the first game of Women's Football Weekend this Sunday at 12:30. Nick Cushing's side found their only win in nearly a month last time out against Birmingham City. Despite this, there has been a distinct lack of ruthlessness for the Blues so far, with Janine Beckie joint-top for the number of shots without scoring in the WSL.
This fixture could bring back unwanted memories for any Irons fans - the club’s biggest ever WSL loss came at the hands of the Blues, a 7-1 defeat in October 2018. West Ham currently sit seventh in the league on six points and fell to unbeaten Chelsea in their last WSL game.
Having been plagued by injuries at the start of the season, the City squad is now starting to shore up. Ellen White has slowly been building back her fitness with the blues. She will be available to play after a strong International period in which she became the first Englishwoman to score at Wembley. Demi Stokes has a slight sickness and did not train with the Blues on Friday, and Laura Coombs is back full-time after a knee operation - although she will probably not be in contention for Sunday. Karen Bardsley and Aoife Mannion are still out with long-term injuries.
The Hammers' top goalscorer, Martha Thomas, should be unavailable for the game after having to depart early from her first International camp with Scotland due to injury. Apart from the striker and players who are out for the long term, the rest of Matt Beard's side should be able to take to the pitch in Sunday's early kickoff.
Manchester City - Roebuck; Bonner, Campbell, Houghton, Fidalgo; Beckie, Scott, Weir, Wullaert; Stanway; White
West Ham United - Brosnan; Baunach, Vetterlein, Flaherty, Hendrix; Middag; Galabadaarachchi, Cho, Dali, Lehmann, Leon
Key Clash: Ellie Roebuck vs Alisha Lehmann
Young goalkeeper Roebuck has been important for City with her shot-stopping abilities this season. With a weakened defence who have suffered the losses of Aoife Mannion and possibly now Demi Stokes, having a strong player in net will be crucial for Nick Cushing's side in their bid to come out on top on Sunday.
Lehmann will provide West Ham's major goal threat against the Blues, after Martha Thomas' injury, working with Adriana Leon going forward. She was one of the standout players in their push to reach the FA Cup final and was the loan scorer last time out for the Irons versus Reading in the Continental Cup to find their first win in the competition so far.
Both sides' views
City boss Nick Cushing told mancity.com that his side will not underestimate a West Ham team which league position would place as weaker opposition
“I certainly wouldn’t call this an ideal game for us because, that would be disrespectful to West Ham. It was their first season last year and they are finding out about themselves.
“We can relate to that - we had it in 2014. In our second season, we qualified for Champions League, but lost some games - every game in Women’s Super League is far more competitive now - it’s a great sign for women’s football, but also a lot harder, but when you win, it’s more satisfying.
“I have huge respect for Matt Beard and what he does at West Ham - they're a dangerous team and maybe just need time in their second season for momentum.”
Tessel Middag swapped Manchester for London in the summer of 2018, but after sustaining an early injury to her ACL which ruled her out for her first campaign, this will be the Dutch midfielder's first time back at the Academy Stadium. She told whufc.com that she thinks the Irons could pick up points:
“We have to not give City too much time on the ball. We know what they can do with the ball. They have good movements and they pass the ball well, particularly without pressure on them.
“The FA Cup Final should give us belief that we can play against the best teams in this league and be level with them. We need to be at our best for the full 90 minutes and show that this Sunday.”