Manchester United play host to Chelsea for the third time this season across all competitions. It was not long ago when both sides met in the Continental League Cup semi-final and the Blues came out on top to win 1-0, with Maren Mjelde scoring the winner to send Chelsea into the final Conti Cup final at the end of this month to face Arsenal.
This game proves to be another opportunity for Chelsea to mount further pressure on their title rivals Arsenal and Manchester City. Both sides have dropped points in recent weeks and it is an opportunity for the Blues to leapfrog both sides at the top of the Women’s Super League. Chelsea thrashed West Ham 8-0 last weekend to extend their unbeaten run and now have a greater goal difference than their title rivals, with Maren Mjelde, Bethany England, Sophie Ingle, Erin Cuthbert, Ramona Bachmann and Emily Murphy all came on the scoresheet.
As for Manchester United, they currently in fourth position and drew their last game against sixth-place Reading. Lauren James opened the scoring for the Reds in the first-half but Reading managed to level the game with Fara Williams firing her spot-kick past Mary Earps.
As for the visitors, they will be without Ji So-yun and Sam Kerr yet again. Both players have been away on international duty and are a few weeks away from returning to the squad.
Fran Kirby, who has been unavailable with a virus but could be in contention for tomorrow’s trip to Manchester United. While there are no fresh injury concerns for the Reds.
Manchester United: Earps; Harris, Turner, Smith; Groenen, Ladd, Zelem; Ross, Sigsworth, James
Chelsea: Telford; Blundell, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Mjelde, Spence, Ingle, Reiten; Cuthbert, England.
Ones to watch
She is currently in fine form, netting five goals in her last five appearances in the Women’s Super League, including the opener against Reading last weekend. James has now scored five goals in her eight starts, in comparison to just one in eight as a substitute. She is the youngest player in the squad and already making a name for herself. It was not long-ago Casey Stoney tipped her to be one of the best players in the world but all of her hard work is already paying dividends.
Bethany England is Chelsea’s key player up front and has scored 12 league goals which is worth up to seven points to her side – more points than any other player in the WSL. The Chelsea forward looking to surpass her goalscoring tally of 12 WSL goals from last season, and achieved the feat by five fewer appearances. She is such an influential player both on and off the pitch – a striker definitely needed to win big titles.
What both sides have said
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is extremely keen to see her players improve and feel empowered to raise their standards ahead of their trip to Manchester United in the Women’s Super League. She told chelseafc.com:
The league campaign is very different to a cup competition and although we are unbeaten in all this season, it’s a crucial period of the season.
‘The levels of consistency in performance and the application of everything that’s been worked on in the training ground both on and off the pitch really comes into play.
‘Our team, our squad and our goals are all aligned and it is so important at this stage of the season that everybody in our group is collectively pushing, because these are the games that will make the difference about where we are going to finish in the league.
‘It’s important to just focus on the process, not the outcome, and the challenge for the players is can we consistently sustain the levels whilst raising the bar. The challenge to the squad is that I want to see it – I want to see what our next level is against United and I want to see what we are truly capable of.'
Hayes has regarded highly of Manchester United defence and admires the work Casey Stoney is doing in her first season in the top flight.
‘I respect Manchester United and Casey Stoney, she’s done an incredible job with that young group and we are going to have to be at our very best, and the best has to be better than we have shown at any other point this season if we are to win the game.
'We’re playing a Manchester United team that are brilliant defensively. They don’t commit a lot of numbers forward because their defensive organisation is so strong and they are the toughest team for us to break down so far this season, so we really have to work for a goal against them.’