Manchester City vs Liverpool WSL Preview: City look to close gap on Chelsea
Image: Getty Images/Tom Flathers

Manchester City prepare to host bottom-of-the-table Liverpool on Sunday in the FA Women's Super League.

The Merseyside club sit rock bottom of the league, a stark contrast to their opponents this weekend, who are challenging for the top honours.

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The return of Laura Coombs provides a huge boost for the hosts, as the midfielder is set to feature against her former club.

The 28-year-old suffered a knee injury that kept her out for the opening few months of the season after joining the blue side of Manchester in the summer.

It's not so good news in the Liverpool camp, however, as Jess Clarke and Jemma Purfield are set for spells on the sidelines after picking up injuries.

The pair underwent procedures last week and have both been ruled out by club medical staff until early-mid January.

This is a huge blow for Vicky Jepson's side as she only has a small squad to work with.

Clarke has started four of the seven league games this season and it's likely Rinsola Babajide will feature heavily in the coming weeks in the forwards' absence. 

City favourites for clash

The Citizens overcame Liverpool both home and away last season as the Reds struggled for form throughout the 18/19 campaign.

Cushing's side inflicted a heavy 3-0 defeat in November 2018 at Prenton Park, with Niamh Fahey netting a second-half own goal.

Nikita Parris scored twice following the opener but fortunately for Liverpool, the forward departed for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in the summer.

This season, the Reds will face a different challenge in stopping Ellen White from adding to her goal tally.

Following an injury lay-off early in the season, the Lionesses star will be eager to put herself in top-scorer contention after netting against both West Ham and Bristol City in recent weeks.

Liverpool last beat Sunday's opponents in a 1-0 victory back in May 2018 when then on-loan Beth England gave the Reds a lead in the 10th minute.

A must-win for both teams

Manchester City currently sit second in the table, only a point behind leaders, Chelsea.

Emma Hayes' side are yet to lose a WSL game this season and have the opportunity to extend their lead over City when they face Everton in a earlier kick-off on Sunday.

The title race is hotting up as the winter break approaches and Manchester City are right in the thick of it alongside London clubs Chelsea and Arsenal.

City's only loss came against the Gunners last month as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at Meadow Park, thanks to a Vivianne Miedema strike.

After missing out on the title to Arsenal last season, Cushing and his side are determined to be the ones lifting the trophy in May and in order to do so, they must be winning every game against lesser opposition.

At the other end of the table, Liverpool find themselves in an unlikely relegation battle, despite it being early days in the season.

A turn in form is crucial if the Reds are to maintain their top-flight status and even a point against the Manchester club will be seen as a positive result.

With six losses and one draw to their name, its troubling times for a side that won back-to-back league titles in 2013 and 2014.

Key players to look out for

Manchester City's star-studded squad isn't short of talented names as they boast a number of players that will cause Liverpool problems on Sunday.

Ellen White made the switch from Birmingham City in the summer following a fantastic FIFA Women's World Cup campaign that saw her finish joint top goalscorer alongside Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

White is clinical in front of goal and has already netted three times in all  competitions since returning to full fitness.

From a Liverpool perspective, summer signing Melissa Lawley is the only player to have scored for the Reds in the WSL so far this term, her penalty against Bristol City earned them a 1-1 draw and their first point of the campaign last month.

Lawley has long been on the fringes of the Lionesses squad and is Liverpool's key creative outlet going forward.

Fortunately for City, the 25-year-old is a player they know all to well as she moved from Manchester to Liverpool in the summer in hope of more game time.

Damage limitation for Liverpool

The hosts are in fine goalscoring form as they've found the back of the net 14 times in their last three games in all competitions and have only conceded once.

Liverpool, though, are yet to lose a game by a large margin this season and will be a tough team to break down.

Coombs outlined this strength in a recent interview with as she looks ahead to facing her former club.

"I can guess how they might play as I’ve been in the team for the last four years," she said. “We’re definitely going to need to move the ball extremely quickly, be creative and have loads of movement off the ball.

“They are good defensively. They will set up really quickly and make things difficult for us so we’ll need to be really sharp and strict with our game plan.”

Kick-off is at 14:00 GMT on Sunday December 1 at the Academy Stadium in Manchester.

It is set to be another tough test for Jepson's Reds, but a positive result here could be season-defining.