This year's WSL title race is already hotting up with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all currently putting in equal bids to lift the trophy in May. The three are rapidly pulling away from the rest of the division, and Sunday's game could easily prove to be a six-pointer for the 2019/20 campaign.
Possibly luckily for City, this game will not see Sam Kerr feature for Chelsea, with the Australian eligible for Emma Hayes' side from January. She could prove all the difference in Chelsea's aims, and was named the top female footballer in the world by The Guardian this week, above the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Lucy Bronze, and Vivianne Miedema.
Chelsea will have a strong contingent of players to select from for their game at home to City. The extra rest provided by the postponement of last week’s tie against Everton could be crucial in their efforts to pick up all three points.
As their on-the-pitch efforts have improved, so has the squad’s health off of it. With Laura Coombs now having returned from injury, Nick Cushing will have a complete list of players to select from on Sunday.
Chelsea - Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Ericsson, Andersson; Spence, Ingle, Ji; Bachmann, England, Reiten
Manchester City - Roebuck; Beckie, Houghton, Bonner, Stokes; Walsh, Weir, Coombs; Hemp, White, Wullaert
Key Clash - Millie Bright vs Ellen White
In what will be played out as a game of extremely fine margins, Millie Bright could be the rock in Chelsea's backline that could help to give Emma Hayes' side the edge. Bright is a mainstay in the Lionesses' squad and has shown throughout a number of years her defensive prowess, however, she also has the ability to impress going forward and has strong skills in playing the ball as well as in front of goal that will be on the radar of Nick Cushing.
Ellen White has cemented herself in the WSL this year after returning from injury and making the move to Manchester City, and has been clinical since doing so. She netted against West Ham United, Bristol City and Birmingham, and in front of goal has given the edge that the blues were lacking earlier in the year.
Alongside Tessa Wullaert and Lauren Hemp, she provides an incredible outlet to score and is one of the top in league for her ability. Chelsea will need to be shut her down, as she is the kind of player that can easily find themself on the scoresheet of any game.
The message from the two camps
Sunday’s game will be one of the most important for Chelsea this season, and especially for the portion of the year that the the side is without Sam Kerr. Emma Hayes spoke to chelseafc.com about how she believes small details will make the difference:
‘We prepare professionally depending on whether we have a lot of games or we don’t, we know going into the game at the weekend we’re playing against an opponent we know very well.
‘We’re at home but there is not much to separate the two teams and it’s absolutely crucial that we start to make the margins and the differences count.
‘My demand for the players is that we have got to put into practice the hard work that we put in on the training pitch.
‘But I make sure that the group and everybody stays present game to game and that we take it one step at a time.'
Ahead of Sunday’s tie, the WSL’s most capped player, Jill Scott, spoke to mancity.com about her partnership with Janine Beckie who has been deployed in a more defensive position on the right flank since Aoife Mannion’s long term ACL injury.
“It’s been good,” Scott said. “We’ve been talking to each other to make sure we’re on the same page and obviously Janine has been contributing a lot with assists going the other way, so I think it’s working alright.
“It’s a bit of a makeshift partnership, but one thing we can both rely on is that we’re both willing to put a shift in for the team.
“I think we’ve done OK so far, we’re just trying to stifle people’s play down that side.
“I’m enjoying it, to be honest, and if the team is winning, I am happy to play my part.”