It’s a huge weekend at the top of the WSL as the top four play each other in the two most crucial games of the season. While Chelsea and Arsenal will battle it out in London, Manchester City will be looking to dent neighbours and rival Manchester United’s title hopes as they travel across the City to face the reds on Sunday evening.
The blues saw their own title ambitions disappear following a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool two weeks ago, and now turn their attention to scuppering United’s chances of claiming the WSL title for the first time.
Following their defeat on Merseyside, City’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League hangs by a thread, and now rely on Arsenal slipping up as well as needing to secure six points from two matches.
United, meanwhile, need to also claim six points and hope Chelsea lose at home to either Arsenal or away to Reading in their final matches. If the champions win those games, they will retain their title regardless of what happens in Manchester.
Their defeat at Liverpool was the blues second in four WSL matches and came off the back of successive victories over West Ham (6-2) and Reading (4-1). They followed a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, which opened the door for the Gunners to take command in the race for the Champions League.
Prior to that defeat, City hadn’t lost a WSL match since a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in September, which gave the faithful hope that manager Gareth Taylor could deliver their final hope of silverware to the Academy Stadium.
The blues lost their League Cup semi-final and FA Cup quarter-final, leaving the WSL title as their only hope of a trophy this season.
United, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea and remain on track to claim their first-ever WSL title. To do that, they must beat the blues at home for the first time in their short WSL history. They have won their nine of their last 11 matches in the WSL, only dropping points at home to Everton (0-0) and away to Chelsea (0-1).
The reds were narrowly defeated at Wembley by Chelsea and it remains to be seen just how much that loss will affect then for the remainder of the season.
City have no new injury concerns ahead of the derby, with manager Gareth Taylor providing updates on Mary Fowler and Alanna Kennedy, who both missed the defeat at Liverpool, and Jess Park, who returned to the blues following a loan spell at Everton. “We have a couple of little niggles which is normal at this time of the season but I don’t see any real changes,” Taylor explained ahead of the match. Focussing on Park’s shoulder injury, Taylor says that her scan showed the injury wasn’t too severe and may be in contention for the World Cup.
United also have no fresh injury concerns and may continue with the same team that has propelled them up the league and in contention for the title. England stars Alessia Russo and Ella Toone are likely to continue to lead the attack, while former blue Nikita Parris may start against her former club.
City weren’t at the races last time out and the concern is that some players may be trying to focus on the World Cup...or get to the beach after a difficult season. United will want to prove a point against their neighbours, but Marc Skinner’s reaction to their FA Cup Final defeat may have more of a detrimental effect than an inspirational one. I honestly don’t think City will win this one, but they won’t lose either.
Prediction: Manchester United Women 2-2 Manchester City Women