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by Andrew Crawshaw
The game is at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park Ground on Sunday afternoon with a kickoff time of 15:00 It is being covered live on BBC1 in the UK or worldwide via the FA Player
You will be aware that last weekend we played Chelsea in the FA Cup and lost by two goals to nil. It was a game where Chelsea (inevitably) scored from their chances and we (again inevitably I’m afraid) failed to score from any of ours. It was a pattern that has become all too common in recent games. It was also widely reported that we were looking to bring in a prolific goalscorer during the January transfer window but failed to do so.
In normal circumstances with both Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema in the team scoring goals has rarely been a problem. Between them they have scored about 60% of our goals and assists for the past couple of seasons and I don’t think there is a team in the world that could accommodate the loss of two such players and carry on as though nothing has changed.
The League Cup, sponsored by Continental Tyres, is a strange competition. It is open to the 24 teams who play in the top two tiers of women’s football and comprised a group stage where teams play each other in round robin fashion followed by a brief knock out stages featuring the top 8 teams. Any teams remaining in the Champions League come into the competition in the later stages. This year that meant that Chelsea and ourselves went straight into the semi finals. It is a format that is odd to say the least and one which should certainly be reviewed before next season.
Arsenal beat Manchester City 1 – 0 on 8 February in a tense affair that was decided by a Blackstenius goal in the third minute of extra time after no score at 90 minutes. We then held on for 27 minutes whilst repelling a constant stream of City attacks. Sabrina D’Angelo, our goalkeeper on the night was excellent in catching everything that was directed her way. We had set up with three at the back becoming five as the wing backs dropped back. With Lia Wälti not available we were light in midfield and frequently struggled to impose ourselves in our usual fashion
In the other semi-final Chelsea brushed West Ham aside winning 7 – 0 with Sam Kerr scoring four, the first in the third minute. This was the same West Ham side who held us to a goalless draw in the League the previous weekend.
This is a game that I am going to in hope rather than expectation. Chelsea have the strongest squad in the country and in Sam Kerr the most lethal finisher. With Beth and Viv in the squad we can match Chelsea, without them everyone else will have to play a perfect game and we will still need a big slice of luck. I have been to too many finals in recent years where we have ended up in second place to Chelsea to realistically expect that this final will be in any way different.
Jonas will need to have found a way to install confidence in our strikers. In the FA Cup game last weekend they were getting into some great positions but I never thought that they were likely to score. Sam Kerr had one sniff of our goal and the ball was in the back of the net. One thing is for certain we will have to keep her quiet for the entire duration of the match, she has the ability to hurt us in a second. If only we could lure her away from Chelsea (she is some distance ahead of our available strikers) but that’s never likely to happen.
I would expect our starting 11 to be similar to last weekend but with Sabrina D’Angelo in goal as she was in the Semi-final
Laura Wienroither, Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza, Steph Catley
Frida Maanum, Lia Wälti, Kim Little
Lina Hurtig, Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Foord
Manuella Zinsberger (GK), Kaylan Markise (GK), Lotte Wubben-Moy, Jen Beattie, Steph Catley, Katie McCabe, Noelle Maritz, Victoria Pelova, Kathrine Kühl, Gio Queiroz, Michelle Agyemang
The match officials are :-
- Referee – Kirsty Dowle (Kent)
- Assistants – Ceri Williams and Sophie Dennington
- Fourth Official – Lou Saunders
- Reserve Assistant Referee Abby Dearden
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