The FA WSL Champions, Chelsea will begin their FA WSL defence this weekend, a week after their Community Shield win against Manchester City.
The Blues will travel to Leigh Sports Village in Manchester on Sunday to face a Manchester United team that finished in fourth place last season, and that has seen some reinforcement ahead of the new season.
The current United team was set up in 2018, as a result, we’ve had the pleasure of playing them just twice and in both instances we’ve come out on top.
The first meeting was a home league match in November 2019. Both teams weren’t at their best but a Maren Mjelde penalty in the 65th minute helped us secure maximum points. The game was balanced and both teams had several chances to convert but weren’t clinical with their attempts.
Our second meeting came in January of 2020. We played the Reds away in the semi finals of the Continental Tyres Cup of which we were eventual winners. Once again, we went through with a 1-0 win but with a much better performance from both teams. Both teams had to put up good defenses to shut out some goal scoring opportunities but it was Mjelde again who broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute.
What to Expect
Riding off the Community Shield win versus City, Chelsea have some momentum going into this game. In that match, the team’s cohesion on the pitch was hard to miss and even though we didn’t convert some of our early chances, we definitely matched our opponent’s pressure.
In terms of team strength, we too have had some serious reinforcement compared to United.
Emma’s line-up may remain almost the same, safe for a few changes. Fran Kirby’s performance in our Community Shield win should earn her a spot in the starting line-up. Super subs Bethany England and Erin Cuthbert might make the starting line-up this time around.
In addition, we may see a few players make their debut. New signing Pernille Harder is eligible and Jessie Fleming, who played for a few minutes in the last game, could be on for longer on Sunday.
Emma Hayes will definitely field a strong enough team versus United. Our last two meetings and their successes last season showed that they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Players to watch out for
Despite our wins versus United, they aren’t an easy team to play. They have creative players who try to cut into our defense to create goal scoring opportunities. Lauren James is one of such players. If she shows up with improved finishing ability this time, then our defense would have to be at the top of their game. United can also trust Jackie Gronen to help them control play from the midfield.
It’s no news that a fit Kirby is a lethal one. Her presence on the pitch means Chelsea can be sure of some creativity. England, our top scorer last season, could continue her usual business of ensuring the ball ends up at the back of the net.
Mjelde cannot be left out for obvious reasons. Her 2 goals in 2 games versus United is proof enough that she loves to score against the Reds. A business-as-usual performance from shot stopper Ann-Katerin Berger and our defense should stifle most of United’s attacking threats.
It’s important that the Blues start this season on a high if we want to better our performances from last season. United are a good team to play first as they are tough enough to test our team strength and ability against. A step up from our performance last weekend should be enough to do the job. We’re heading into the game as favorites to win it and there’s no doubt Emma Hayes’ players will do just that.
How to Watch
The game kicks off by 2:30pm BST. UK residents can watch on BT Sport 1 while other fans can catch it on the FA Player.
Are you confident ahead of the fixture against Manchester United on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below!