Ladies preview: Big match beckons

Kingsmeadow is the place to be on Thursday evening when the two leaders of the Women’s Super League go head to head at 7pm. Here the official Chelsea website looks at the background to a crucial match in deciding this season’s title…

 

THE FORM

The two sides could scarcely have started this season’s WSL1 campaign any better, with our draw against Reading in November the only time either club has dropped points in a combined 14 matches.

Although we lost the recent Continental Tyres Cup semi-final, against Man City, our two league fixtures in 2018 have both resulted in narrow victory. We began the year with a thrilling victory against Arsenal, with Jonna Andersson forcing a late own-goal from keeper Sari Van Veenendaal to secure the win. Our new signing was decisive again when we hosted Everton on Sunday, producing a finish of unerring accuracy to score the only goal of the game.

That result temporarily took us top of the standings, but Manchester City moved two points clear following a 3-0 win over Sunderland. Captain Steph Houghton made her 100th appearance for City against the club where it all began for her, but Nikita Parris was the hero on the day with two goals. Their other WSL1 win this year came against Reading.

 

VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT

Manager Emma Hayes expects her players to deliver both a positive performance and result against Manchester City, who we pipped to the Spring Series title after they had been crowned WSL1 champions in 2016.

‘City have clearly demonstrated they've been the top team in the country for quite some time, and we're battling to overcome that,’ she said. ‘They beat us in the Continental Tyres Cup when, on the day, they got the goal in a game where they performed better but we created the better chances.

‘We know we can produce both performance and goals. There's not much between the sides. As a group, they're probably a bit more played in over a period of time, and I think that shows in some of their productivity. But for us, it is just another game – as our match against Everton proved, you're not a shoe-in to win every game, so Man City is equally as challenging as Everton were.’

 

PREVIOUS MEETINGS

Manchester City have been competing in the WSL since 2014 and they have built up a fine record against the Blues in that time. Although we were victorious in the first match between the sides, which was played at Wheatsheaf Park, thanks to late goal by Jackie Groenen, we have not registered another league victory since. Our only meeting with City in 2017 was in the Spring Series at the Academy Stadium, when the home side ran out 1-0 winners.

While our league record against Nick Cushing’s side has room for improvement, we have twice between them in the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup. Ji So-Yun sent us to Wembley in 2015 with a late winner at Adams Park and then last year, at Wheatsheaf Park, Fran Kirby left it even later to net the winner when she scored with virtually the last kick of extra-time.


- The game will be screened live on BT Sport


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