Bristol City Women vs Manchester City Women preview: a tough test for the vixens?
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Nick Cushing will treat Sunday’s game as a crucial game for his side to get back on track in their title campaign. Since their loss to Arsenal, they now sit only one point behind leaders Chelsea, and an upturn in form off the back of a weak October could prove to make this game a difficult test for Bristol.

The Vixens have failed to win in their past seven matches against City (D2 L5) and in their last encounter drew 1-1 thanks to a Lucy Graham penalty which cancelled out Nikita Parris’ first-half goal. In their last WSL game, a late equaliser saw their match finish 3-3 away to Reading on Women’s Football Weekend, but they fell 7-0 to Arsenal in midweek.

Should Jill Scott feature for Manchester City in this match, she will make her 133rd Women’s Super League appearance, overtaking Kerys Harrop (132) to set the record for the most apps by a single player in the competition’s history.

Team news

Abi Harrison limped off against Reading on Women's Football Weekend, but the Vixens only provided an update on Saturday. To add to a long list of female players currently sidelined ACL injuries, including Manchester City's Aoife Mannion, Harrison has suffered a tear to that muscle in her left knee. It is a much-discussed issue in the women's game, and with Ellie Brazil also being ruled out for an entire season over the past couple of days, research needs to be done to see what can happen in terms of prevention.

Laura Coombs returned from the bench against Everton in midweek, having been out of action since the end of September when she received surgery to her knee. Her return now clears up City’s short-term injury problems, though Mannion and Karen Bardsley are still unavailable. Demi Stokes was benched on Wednesday to help rest her, but she should hopefully have recovered enough to participate in Sunday’s game.

Predicted lineups

Bristol City: Baggaley; Evans, Allen, Brown, Sargeant; Chance, Humphrey, Reilly; Daniëls, Wellings, Salmon

Manchester City: Roebuck; Beckie, Bonner, Houghton, Stokes; Walsh, Weir, Scott; Hemp, White, Stanway

Key clash: Ebony Salmon vs Steph Houghton

The young forward, Salmon, has shown her attacking prowess for the Vixens so far this season. Although they suffered a 7-0 drubbing against Arsenal midweek, she scored late in the previous game against Reading at the Madjeski to level the scoring and earn a vital point. Her quick footwork and skill going forwards have troubled defences so far, and she could provide Bristol with a strong goalscoring outlet on Sunday. 

Salmon will find herself up against Steph Houghton in the middle. One of the most experienced players in the game, the Lionesses’ captain has shown some defensive frailties this season, being at fault for a number of goals that have been conceded. On her day, however, Houghton can prove why she holds the armband for both club and country and can make the crucial difference in helping to keep a clean sheet:

What both sides have said

Bristol forward Salmon spoke to about Sunday’s game:

“As much as we know Man City are a top team and they’ll be tough to play against, these are the games you want to be playing in and if we stick to the game plan, like we did on Sunday, being compact and hit them on the counter attack then I think we can definitely get something from the game.

“As a striker I’m always looking to get on the scoresheet and of course I want to do that at the weekend, but if we get a strong team performance then I’ll be happy as that’s what matters most.

“We knew we had a tough run of games coming up this month and Reading was the start of that run, so going in to that game and getting something out it gives us the positivity we need going into to Man City.

City boss Nick Cushing spoke about how Laura Coombs could make her first start for the blues in over two months on Sunday:

“She’s back in the team now, so she will get some minutes. She has trained so well she is in my thoughts to start against Bristol City because we need midfielders who can go and create.

“Even though the injury was a negative, it’s turned into a bit of a positive.

“She came here from Liverpool and she was consumed by playing with quality players, winning games and the size of this football club.

“To come out of it and look in from the outside, it gave her a chance to build perspective and confidence.

“She looks a different player than when we first signed her."