Brighton & Hove Albion are looking to get another positive result after they put an end to their woeful run of five losses on the bounce with their draw with Birmingham City last week. Hope Powell is once again forced to play a side missing multiple key players who are out while self-isolating, having had contact with other players who tested positive for COVID-19.
Her makeshift side will have a much sterner test this weekend as they come up against a Manchester City looking to respond to their narrow loss to Chelsea in the Continental Tyres League Cup. Man City find themselves in fourth, five points off the top spot, and know that they cannot afford any slip ups if they want to stay in the title race. The club has not announced whether head coach Gareth Taylor will take charge of the match after self-isolating, or if assistant Alan Mahon will take charge of his third match in a row.
Hope Powell was cagey in her pre-match press conference when questioned about team selection saying:
"We’re still quite a depleted squad, but everyone is on the mend and on the way back. It will be a bit like last Sunday, we will have to plug some holes. But we are keen to play the game."
It is likely that once again, the Seagulls will have to play with a makeshift back four. Last time out winger Megan Conolly deputised at right back as Maya Le Tissier moved to centre back. It is likely that Bethan Roe will get her second start in row at left back after being recalled from her loan at Charlton Athletic.
Man City will be without United States trio Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and new signing Abby Dahlkemper as they are all still on international duty. With Demi Stokes still unavailable to start, Esme Morgan is set to once again partner captain Steph Houghton in the heart of defence. The impressive City youth product has excelled since coming into the side.
In a somewhat surprising move, Man City this week allowed club stalwart Jill Scott to move on loan to Everton until the end of the season. Scott had only started four matches this season and is in search of first team football. However, with key players out and other regulars such as Keira Walsh being rotated in the last couple weeks Scott had started City's last two games and scored last week in their comfortable win over Aston Villa.
Brighton predicted XI: Fiskerstrand (gk), Connolly, Kerkdijk, Le Tissier, Roe, Bowman (c), Whelan, Green, Kaagman, Brazil, Jarrett
Manchester City predicted XI: Bardsley (gk), Bronze, Houghton, Morgan, Greenwood, Walsh, Stanway, Coombs, Kelly, White, Hemp
Ones to watch
As potentially the only defender playing in her recognised position, Danique Kerkdijk will be key if Brighton are going to get anything out the game. The Dutch international was excellent last weekend in earning her side a clean sheet. And while this weekend will be a much bigger test Kerkdijk will be up to the task. She was a key figure when Brighton last met City at the beginning of the season where they came away with a superb 0-0 draw.
With multiple injuries this season and plenty of players missing since the turn of the new year it has been the youngsters Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly who have stepped up. The wingers were in fantastic form against Aston Villa last weekend where they contributed three goals and three assists between them.
The pair then scored the two goals for Man City in their loss to Chelsea and will be licking their lips at the prospect of attacking the relatively inexperienced Brighton full backs.
When the sides met at the beginning of the season it was Man City who were left embarrassed as the Seagulls came away with a clean sheet and a point. Man City completely dominated the ball, with 66% possession, but were toothless in front of goal. The Citizens were unable to create many clear cut chances and only forced keeper Megan Walsh into making four saves. Aside from that draw Brighton have lost every meeting with City in the WSL, scoring zero and conceding 14 in three matches (stats from fbref.com and Opta).
How to watch
The match kicks off on Sunday at The People's Pension Stadium at 2:00 PM GMT.
The match will stream live, both nationally and internationally on the FA Player.