The fate of both Aston Villa Women and West Ham United Women hang in the balance as the two sides in claret and blue prepare to clash at Villa Park on Sunday.
Neither side are safe from relegation from the Women’s Super League, with the Villans and the Irons being one and two points off the bottom respectively.
Villa are coming fresh off the back of conceding consecutive 96th minute equalisers in their last two games, leaving them still searching for their first win since February.
Olli Harder’s team exploded into life with an emphatic 5-0 thumping of Reading at the beginning of April, but are yet to build on that display and haven’t won another game since.
Aston Villa have been boosted by Ramona Petzelberger’s return to fitness in the last week, with the German forward making her comeback in the 2-2 draw with Bristol City after a long injury layoff. Winger Sophie Haywood remains out with a long-term injury while full back Ella Franklin-Fraiture will also likely miss out. However, centre back Elisha N’Dow could return following her absence against Birmingham City but she will have to dislodge the much-improved Nat Haigh or Jodie Hutton.
As for the visitors, defender Hawa Cissoko will likely keep her place after impressing in recent games. Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold should also be able to keep her place after replacing Courtney Brosnan in their defeat to Arsenal last time out.
Aston Villa: Weiss (GK), Ale, Asante, Haigh, Hutton, Gregory, Arthur, McLoughlin, Iwabuchi, Larsen, Hayles
West Ham United: Arnold, Flaherty, Fisk, Cissoko, Kvamme, Longhurst, van Egmond, Pacheco, Dali, Brynjarsdóttir, Thomas
Ones to watch
Villa academy graduates Freya Gregory and Olivia McLoughlin have massively impressed since coming into the first team in recent weeks. Aged just 18 and 16 respectively, the duo have put in composed, professional performances to put some of their older teammates to shame.
Despite being a natural left back, McLoughlin has been playing in central midfield while Gregory has taken the left back slot. Gregory also managed to score her first senior goal in Villa’s draw with Birmingham earlier this week.
As for West Ham, Martha Thomas’ return to form and fitness has boosted them massively in the last month. She bagged a hattrick in the win over Reading to spark their season back into life and the fan favourite striker has proven to be crucial to Olli Harder.
Meanwhile, Hawa Cissoko has forced her way into the team to give the Hammers a new level of defensive stability. She has been impressing alongside Gilly Flaherty and Grace Fisk and she will hope to keep the physical presence of Stine Larsen at bay.
The pair have only played each other once in the WSL, with this coming a little under a fortnight ago. The two relegation rivals played out a dire goalless draw in Dagenham as the Hammers looked to springboard off their win against Reading.
Neither side have won a game since then thanks to Villa’s calamitous run of last minute defending. However, Olli Harder’s side would mathematically secure survival with a win at Villa Park. Even if Villa do win, they would only secure survival if Bristol City lose to Manchester United.
How to watch
The match will not be broadcast on TV, but it will be available to view for free via the FA Player.