Manchester United's strong start to the Women's Super League season looked to be slipping out of their grasp before the recent international break. Losses against Reading and Manchester City exposed weaknesses in defence from set pieces that Casey Stoney will be drilling her team against.
Speaking to the Manchester United website, Stoney knows this game will prove crucial to the team's long term goals:
"Every game now is a must-win. We need to make sure we get maximum points to make sure we get that Champion's League place."
Aston Villa have been without a win since their 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the start of February. Mana Iwabuchi's long range effort showing a flash of brilliance that the team have yet to develop fully.
Villa are struggling to make an impact in the WSL this season. They have fought tooth and nail to register little more than 300 passes per game. Coupled with an accuracy that fluctuates by around 15% with each passing match, interim manager Marcus Bignot will need the team to be a more commanding presence on the pitch.
The match kicks off Sunday 7th of March at Leigh Sports Village at 12:00pm GMT.
Manchester United are now without Leah Galton who will not be available for the next few months at least, with damage to the ligaments in her ankle.
Lauren James is a big question mark ahead of Sunday's game, the striker has been battling a recurring injury this season and may still be working back to full fitness although she has been training with the team.
The international break proved to be galvanising for a number of United players. Ella Toone made her debut for the Lionesses' against Northern Ireland and scored from the penalty spot, making an instant impact.
Christen Press had a strong showing in the SheBelieves Cup for the USA and Dutch international Jackie Groenen impressed during European clashes against Germany and Belgium, adding her name to the score sheet.
For Aston Villa, their back line will be held down by Anita Asante once more, but she and her fellow defenders will need to connect more with the midfield to help them unleash Mana Iwabuchi in front of goal.
Manchester United starting XI: Earps (GK), Thorisdottir, Smith, Batlle, M.Turner, A.Turner, Toone, Groenen, Zelem, Ladd, Press.
Aston Villa starting XI: Weiß (GK), Ale, N'Dow, Asante, Siems, Petzelberger, Hanssen, Ewers, Haywood, Iwabuchi, Larsen.
Ones To Watch
Ella Toone's solid performance for the Lionesses during the international break will no doubt have buoyed her confidence when it comes to pressing higher up the pitch and in front of goal. She has had a big impact in success this season and her goal tally highlights how well she is developing under Casey Stoney.
Lisa Weiß will have her work cut out for her in goal, but her important save against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season proved she can keep calm under pressure and step in when the Villa defence is rattled.
Manchester United have not conceded any goals in their previous three meetings against Aston Villa.
The first duel between the pair in 2018 saw United romp to victory with a 12-0 lead. Their most recent head to head in December 2020 saw that margin brought down to just two goals from Leah Galton and Ella Toone.
Aston Villa will be hoping for their first ever win in this fixture, which would see them potentially leapfrog both Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur in the WSL standings.
How To Watch
This match will be broadcast on the FA Player worldwide and kicks off at 12:00PM GMT.