Manchester City Women host Doncaster Rovers Belles in the quarter-final of the Continental Cup, the first of two fixtures against the Belles in the space of a week for The Blues.
City, winners of the competition in 2014, will be looking to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games and head into the fixture quietly confident they’ll be able to reach the semi-finals for the second time. In contrast, Doncaster currently sit at the bottom of WSL 1, having suffered defeat in all seven of their league matches so far this season, scoring just three goals and conceding a whopping 23.
The Blues will be hoping the quarter-final clash is a repeat of the league fixture that saw them emerge as 6-0 victors when the two sides met in early May. Truth be told, City barely had to leave third gear such was Doncaster’s poor showing, and as City find themselves in the middle of a fixture pile-up that sees them play 4 games in 12 days, they will very much appreciate Doncaster affording them the opportunity to win at a canter once again. However this is a rare gift in football and, after a buoying victory over relegation rivals Sunderland in the last round of the competition, The Belles will be hoping they can deliver a cup upset.
City will be missing defender Megan Campbell after she picked up an ankle knock before Thursday’s game at Reading and fellow defender Abbie McManus is out for the remainder of the season, again with an ankle injury. As a consequence, City are a bit light in terms of defensive options for what seems like the millionth time this season, but luckily the return of Jennifer Beattie to the heart of defence mid-week couldn’t have been timed any better if City had tried. Beattie put in a commanding performance at Reading, so The Blues shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
The Continental Cup is special for everyone involved with City and so, with The Blues wanting to win as much silverware as possible this season, it’d be wise to think that manager Nick Cushing would play the strongest side at his disposal, however, due to the fixture pile-up, he may make some changes. Midfielder Daphne Corboz came on against Reading and immediately showed that she had something a little bit extra about her game that may be suited to opening up Doncaster’s often poor defence, so it’s possible that she’ll start. Toni Duggan may see herself seal a spot in the starting XI after netting a stunning winner mid-week, however it’s difficult to argue in favour of dropping the in-form starlet Georgia Stanway, who is currently playing in Duggan’s preferred position, especially after scoring 4 goals in her last 2 games.
Should City win, they’ll be just one game away from a home final at the Academy Stadium and, controversy aside, this is an opportunity City can’t afford to pass up.
City Key Player: Jill Scott. Has put in some excellent performances this season, pulling the strings and splitting defences apart with some quality through-balls. Doncaster struggled to cope with the England international in the previous meeting between the two sides, and so she might find herself on the scoresheet once again.
Expected City XI: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), Beattie, Stokes, Middag, Scott, Corboz, Duggan, Parris, Ross.
Predicted Score: City 4 – 0 Doncaster Rovers Belles.
KO: 7th August 2016, 2:00PM, Academy Stadium.
Written by Jill Peacock
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