Chelsea Women will be aiming to extend their winning run when they take on Birmingham City at Kingsmeadow this afternoon, and we have a full preview ahead of the game, including some words from Emma Hayes.
Since our last meeting with Birmingham City in October, Emma Hayes' side have won each of our 11 fixtures in all competitions, which included a run of clean sheets that was only ended in the final 10 minutes of our most recent game. That, of course, came against Arsenal, who were knocked off the top of the WSL table thanks to a brilliant 2-1 victory for the Blues. Erin Cuthbert was on target twice, netting a towering header and a thumping volley either side of half-time, although it was a nervy finish after Vivianne Miedema scored late on.
This will be our fourth fixture of 2019, having previously beaten Everton in the league and booked a Continental Tyres League Cup semi-final against Manchester City thanks to a big win over Reading in the last eight.
Birmingham's last game before the international break was an emotional day, as our fellow Blues said goodbye to Marc Skinner, who is heading to the States as the new head coach of Orlando Pride. It's been a busy few weeks for the 35-year-old, who was in the job for two years, as he became a father when his partner, Laura Bassett, formerly of Chelsea, gave birth to their daughter Saede. However, there was no fond farewell at Solihull Moors FC, as Bristol City spoiled the party with a 1-0 victory. Despite that setback, they remain only three points behind us in the standings and six off the leaders, Manchester City, with seven games remaining in the WSL season. The club announced earlier this week that Marta Tejedor has replaced Skinner as manager. The 50-year-old has coached the national teams of Chile and Peru, as well as Atletico Madrid.
HOW TO FOLLOW
With today's game not selected for live television coverage, the only way to see all the action is to get yourself along to Kingsmeadow. However, those who can't attend can still keep up to date with the matchday experience via our social media channels. There will be live text commentary on our Twitter page, regular updates on Facebook and for behind-the-scenes footage, make sure you check out our matchday Instagram Story. Simply search 'ChelseaFCW' on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Manager Emma Hayes expects a tough encounter this afternoon, and she explained why.
‘Having the international break at this time wasn't ideal, but at the same time it was a great way to end a tough period post-Christmas,’ she said. ‘The players trained hard for that, and it showed. These camps, typically, are more relaxing than usual and I don't think this regeneration period is particularly bad for them. But it's not ideal to prepare for a massive league game with just three days together.
‘Birmingham are a tricky opponent and they've just appointed a new manager, Marta Tejedor, after Marc Skinner left to go to America. They've made it difficult for every team in the WSL this year and they're deserving of their position in the league.’
ELSEWHERE IN THE WSL
There are three other matches taking place today in the English top flight. Arsenal can regain top spot in the standings, for a few hours at least, when they travel to Reading in the day's early kick-off, which is live on BBC via the Red Button. Leaders Manchester City host Brighton at 2pm and then an hour later Bristol City take on Yeovil Town. There will also be a rare Monday night fixture, as Liverpool meet West Ham United. BT Sport will have live coverage of that 7pm kick-off.
BLUES THROUGH AND THROUGH
Ann-Katrin Berger, Karen Carney and Jess Carter are three former Birmingham City players who have joined us at Chelsea in recent times. How well do you think you know this trio of Blues? Take our quiz and find out!
Our away fixture against Birmingham City in October was a frustrating afternoon for Hayes' side, as a dominant performance was not rewarded with three points – thanks largely to Berger, who has since gone on to join us. The highlight of the German's afternoon was a magnificent save to deny Carney from the penalty spot as the match finished goalless.
However, if our most recent game against Birmingham at Kingsmeadow, which took place during the title run-in last May, is anything to go by, don't leave early to beat the traffic. The Blues led through a Fran Kirby stunner early on, but Hayley Ladd's equaliser, which came after a good run by Carter, looked to have earned the visitors a point. Cuthbert had other ideas, though, slotting home a last-gasp winner which pushed us a step closer to the title.
That was our first home meeting with them since July 2016, with the subsequent four fixtures taking place at Solihull Moors. Three of those ended positively for Chelsea, including a Spring Series-clinching victory, although we lost an FA Cup semi-final in a penalty shoot-out. No prizes for guessing who Birmingham's keeper was that day.
The July 2016 match, which took place at our old Wheatsheaf Park home, finished all square after Eniola Aluko cancelled out Freda Ayisi's opener. Katie Chapman was sent off late on and it was the second home game against our fellow Blues which we finished with 10 players, as Gemma Davison was sent off the year before. It made little difference on that occasion, as we ran out 4-0 winners following a brace from Aluko and one apiece for Gilly Flaherty and Kirby. It was a debut goal for Chelsea's No14, who hasn't stopped scoring since, and it came just over a week after we had clinched our first Women's FA Cup.
We also recorded a victory over Birmingham in 2014. Once again there were goals for Aluko and Flaherty, while Ji So-Yun also got her name on the scoresheet.