Two semi-finals, two polar opposite results. West Ham United and Bristol City both featured in the final four of this week's Continental Cup action.
However, whilst Bristol have begun planning their final outing, after a 1-0 win over Leicester City, West Ham are nursing a crushing loss, 6-0 to Chelsea, and a cup exit that has already got the media questioning the capability of West Ham manager Olli Harder.
The Hammers will welcome back former boss Matt Beard for the first time on Sunday. Beard resigned from his role as manager in November 2020 after over two years in charge. His familiarity with Harder's squad could give his already perky Bristol City side an extra edge.
West Ham come into this game having lost every single one of their five WSL home matches this season, with a goal differential of -13. The team are yet to score a WSL goal under new head coach Harder.
This is a pivotal moment for Bristol City, who could still claw West Ham back into a relegation battle. The Robins ended a run of 11 WSL matches without a win last weekend and now sit just four points behind West Ham in the WSL table.
The match kicks off Sunday 7th February at the Chigwell Construction Stadium at 15:00 GMT.
Mackenzie Arnold’s torrid evening full of mistakes against Chelsea, in the Conti Cup midweek, could persuade Harder into a change between the posts for West Ham. Back up keeper Courtney Brosnan is yet to play in the WSL this season but featured in 10 of the 14 matches in the 2019/20 season, where she conceded 22 goals with a save percentage of 0.667%.
Harder named an unchanged XI in his previous two matches, as he attempted to implement his ambitious 3-4-1-2 formation onto the West Ham players. Natural centre forwards Martha Thomas and Nor Mustafa have both been substitutes in those matches but could push for a starting berth on Sunday.
Having secured their first win of the season and their first clean sheet, don’t expect much tinkering from Beard this week. Newly arrived loanee, from Everton, Molly Pike made her debut in the 3-0 victory over Brighton last week and should start again. Beard has persevered with Tanya Oxtoby’s choice of utilising a five-player defence, so don’t expect a formation change either.
West Ham: Brosnan (GK), Fisk, Flaherty, Vetterlein, Kvamme, Longhurst, Joel, Pacheco, Sviktova, Thomas, Van Egmond
Bristol City: Baggaley (GK), Purfield, Evans, Rafferty, Palmer, Allen, Pike, Daniels, Humphrey, Wellings, Salmon
Ones to watch
Originally signed on a short-term deal, but now extended until the end of the season, Aussie international Emily Van Egmond is the engine for West Ham.
Initially, she was deployed as a deep-lying playmaker under Beard, then as a floating number 10 under Billy Stewart and now she starts as a centre forward leading the press for Harder. In a season full of inconsistency, Van Egmond’s contribution has been dependable and formidable.
One player in red keeps stealing the show every week. And that is Ebony Salmon. The forward, who only just turned 20 years old last week, scored a brace in her last match against Bristol.
The first was a trademark counter-attacking goal, where she beat the offside trap, surged into the box and slotted it away; the second, a cool finish from the penalty spot. That brought her total number of league goals to five, which equals her total from the 2019/20 season.
Combine that with her beautiful curling assist in the Conti Cup semi-final, and it has been quite a week. It might be time to ask yourself, is there a more exciting player under 21 currently playing in the WSL?
What a difference a new calendar year makes. The last time these two teams met was in December 2020, with West Ham at the time under interim manager Billy Stewart, the Hammers won 4-0. Since that match, the Hammers are yet to score a single goal in the WSL.
Due to poor weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic, these two teams did not meet in during the 2019/20 season. In the penultimate game of 2018/19 season, Matt Beard’s West Ham came away as 2-1 winner at the Stoke Gifford Stadium in Bristol. Goals that day coming from Leanne Kiernan and Jane Ross.
West Ham have won all three of their previous meetings against Bristol City.
How to watch
This match will be broadcasted on the FA Player worldwide.