City women face current cup-holders Chelsea Ladies in the semi-final of the FA Women’s Cup at Wheatsheaf Park in what is set to be a blockbuster game.
City will be looking to extend their excellent run of 4 wins and clean sheets from 4 in 2016, and a win over Chelsea is all that stands between City and their first FA Women’s Cup final, set to be played at Wembley on May 14th.
Chelsea go into the game having won 3 from 3, scoring 14 goals in the process and, when considering the squad they have, are favourites for every domestic title on offer this season. The Londoners will fancy their chances against City in the home-tie, especially with their attacking quintet of So-Yun, Carney, Aluko, Davison and Kirby all being possible starters. At the back, Swedish international Hedvig Lindahl is a solid ‘keeper, and was recently nominated for the Women’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year award following a great 2015. In City’s favour however, Lindahl’s conceded twice already this season against lower quality opposition, whilst City have conceded none, and knowing that she can be beaten may provide City with some confidence going into the game.
Jen Beattie is back in contention following an injury that’s seen her absent from City’s starting eleven so far this season, which is a huge boost for the squad. Beattie was one of City’s most solid players last season and her immediate re-introduction into the starting line-up should be a no-brainer. However, her replacement, Abbie McManus, has played well enough to keep her place at centre back, and while Daphne Corboz has been excellent in defensive midfield this season, she’s really an attacking player that uses her positioning and excellent passing rather than her physicality to unlock defences. With Chelsea having such strength and depth in their attacking options, Cushing may slot Beattie into defensive midfield, relegate striker Nikita Parris to the bench (despite putting on a standout display in the quarter-final), and push Corboz slightly forward in order to offer City that bit of extra protection in the middle. City’s trio of Campbell, Walsh and Christiansen are still out with injury.
As was seen in the Blues’ game against Notts County earlier in the season, City sometimes struggle to meaningfully break down teams who set up to defend. While the way Notts County and Chelsea play can’t be directly compared due to vast differences in the way they approach the game, Chelsea do like to set up with two holding players, and if Chelsea try to contain City instead of coming out and attacking then it will certainly make life more difficult for the Blues’ forward line.
The semi-final provides both teams with the biggest test each have faced so far this season, and the result might give an indication as to how the league will eventually pan out, with City being early leaders (Chelsea have a game in hand and would be level on points with City should they win). While Chelsea are favourites going into the game, City possess the discipline, style of football and desire that’s necessary to beat their London rivals, and getting a win over a very strong Chelsea side in such an important game would be huge. It would signify how far the club has come since last season, in which they missed out on the first Women’s FA Cup final to be held at Wembley thanks to a heart-breaking 84th minute winner scored by Chelsea’s Ji So-Yun.
In a highly unpredictable game between the two strongest sides in the competition, only one thing is for certain – City will be looking to get revenge for last season’s semi-final loss in their quest to make history and reach the first Women’s FA Cup final in the club’s history.
Ones to watch:
Toni Duggan. With neither team looking to lose, the game may prove to be a tight affair with neither team wanting to expose themselves too much. Both teams have a formidable defence, and so may need to produce something special to return home with a win, and Duggan is City’s go-to when the team needs a piece of individual brilliance to break the deadlock, having done so against Chelsea 2 years ago to deny them from being crowned league champions on the final day of the season. Duggan also works extremely hard off the ball, and with Chelsea having two fantastic wingers in Davison and Carney, she will be key in providing defensive cover on the flanks.
Karen Carney. Signed from Birmingham Ladies, the England international is a player that possesses skill and flair, and elevates Chelsea’s forward line-up into undoubtedly the strongest in the league. Since the start of the 2016 season, Carney has scored twice in three games for Chelsea and recently netted a late winner for England against Bosnia-Herzegovina in their EURO 2017 qualifier. Clearly she’s in good form at the moment and it’s up to City to stop her from making the difference for her team once again.
KO: 17th April 2016, 2pm, Wheatsheaf Park.
Expected City XI:
Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Beattie, Corboz, Scott, Duggan, Asllani, Ross.
Prediction: Chelsea 1 – 2 City (AET)
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Written by Jill Peacock