OWhatever the outcome at Kingsmeadow this afternoon, next week could have a huge bearing on the Women’s Super League title race.
Chelsea are currently five points behind Arsenal at the top, but two games less. Jonas Eidevall’s side snatched a 1-1 draw with third-placed Manchester United yesterday afternoon, providing an opening for their London rivals.
If Emma Hayes can fire her tactical synapses and engineer a win here against Manchester City, Chelsea will be within touching distance of Arsenal when the two sides meet on Friday night. If City frustrate them, however, they will return the advantage to the league leaders.
After beating United 3-1 on Wednesday to secure their place in the Women’s League Cup final – goals from Pernille Harder, Jessie Fleming and Jess Carter giving them a comfortable victory – Chelsea will enter this game full of confidence. Their record against City is cause for cautious optimism, with Chelsea unbeaten against today’s opponents in nine WSL appearances, although six of those games have ended in draws.
That said, City have improved a lot over the past two months after a lackluster start to the season. Despite being fifth in the standings, they are unbeaten in nine in all competitions in a run dating back to mid-November.
Their rise to form coincided with the return of Lucy Bronze to the side, with the England right-back missing the start of the season after undergoing rare knee surgery. Up front, Khadija Shaw, Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway have all been among the goals of late and, overall, City have found a much better balance between defense and attack.
This match will serve as a precursor to the Women’s League Cup final in March, with City ahead of Tottenham in the other midweek semi-final. For now, however, all eyes will be on Chelsea’s points tally at the final whistle.