Birmingham City Women - Manchester City preview: A crucial game for both sides
(Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Manchester City open Sunday's round of Women's Super League fixtures when they travel to Birmingham City for a 12:00 kickoff. It will be the third time that the clubs have met so far this campaign, having been drawn in the same Continental Cup group, as well as having faced the midlands side in the league in October. In the past two fixtures, Nick Cushing's side have won three points.

Birmingham are looking to avoid losing three straight league matches for the second time this season, having lost each of their opening three games of the season. Only bottom of the table Liverpool (2.4%) have a lower shot conversion rate than the Blues in Barclays FA WSL matches this season, who have netted just five times from 117 shots this season (4.3%). Coupled with playing against the strong defensive backline of Janine BeckieGemmer Bonner, Demi Stokes, and Steph Houghton, it could be difficult for Birmingham to provide a strong opposition on Sunday afternoon.

As much as this game is important for the Manchester side at the top of the table, giving them a chance to take advantage of the fact that Arsenal and Chelsea play each other on Sunday, Birmingham can also use this as an opportunity to build their gap on safety from the drop with Liverpool and Bristol also facing. If Liverpool pick up all three points, then they will be equal with the Vixens and will close the gap between them and the Midlands-based side to one point.

Predicted lineups:

Birmingham City - Hampton; Mayling, Scott, Holloway, Jordan; Arthur, Staniforth; Walker, Whipp, Grant; Williams

Manchester City - Roebuck; Beckie, Houghton, Bonner, Stokes; Scott, Walsh, Weir, Hemp; Bremer, Stanway

Ones to watch:

Birmingham City - Lucy Staniforth

One of the key players at Marta Tejedor’s disposal will be Lucy Staniforth. A regular with the Lionesses, she will be the stronghold in the Birmingham midfield.

After an incredibly difficult summer that saw the Midlands-based side lose a number of crucial players, including Aoife Mannion and Ellen White to City, and many to rivals Aston Villa who are now high-flying in the Championship. They were lucky to hold on to Staniforth, and she has been crucial so far.

The last time that the two faced, in the Continental Cup in November, she provided one of the few attacking threats that the blues had at the Academy Stadium, often firing off long-range shots that troubled Ellie Roebuck.

Manchester City - Pauline Bremer

If there’s one player who has made her name for herself in 2020 so far, it’s Pauline Bremer. She has become a mainstay in Nick Cushing’s plans since the winter break culminated, and the 23-year-old is paying dividends for the blues.

The German has scored in each of her last four Barclays FA WSL matches (seven goals), including netting braces in three of those matches. Indeed, she has scored 2+ goals on four different occasions this season, more often than any other player. 

These statistics are made even more impressive by the fact that she has rarely played a full ninety minutes, and was often utilised as a substitute in the first half of the 19/20 campaign. Across all competitions, she has averaged just over 47 minutes per goal, an impressive feat for any striker.

What both sides have said:

Birmingham suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at Reading last weekend, courtesy of an Amelie Eikeland goal. Blues' boss Tejedor praised her team when speaking to this week:

"In general, after every match I look at it. And for me it's more important the way we have done it, our performance. Rather than the score.

"The score should reflect the performance. But we know this is football, this is not the fairest sport, we know different things have an impact. It's not just you, there is an opponent in front of you, a referee. A lot of things.

"So, for me, what makes me happy or disappointed is the performance. Of course, the score helps! But I look at how we have played and we lost control of the match last week and we have to try to ensure that doesn't happen again."

Prolific goalscorer Pauline Bremer spoke of her connection to Ellen White to this week:

“It’s brilliant to play with (Ellen White). I really like it.

“She’s a great striker and I think we kind of think the same – we always want to get in the box and get shots off.”

“I can learn a lot from her, and I think it works out quite well.”

Despite her impeccable run of form over the past couple of games, the German forward believes that the best is still to come:

“I think I can improve massively. I’ve still got lots to come” the 23-year-old said

“Defensively, maybe getting around a bit quicker and the change of direction, that’s from a physical point of view.

“But also, in the game technically and playing together with the team, there’s always areas I can improve, and I will.”