by Andrew Crawshaw
After a win in the WSL at the weekend, albeit one which saw us lose ground to both Chelsea and Manchester United who both won by far bigger margins, we return to Champions League action on Wednesday night against Juventus at the Emirates kicking off at 20:00.
Here is a reminder of the current state of play in our group
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Lyon play their return game against Zurich in an earlier kickoff and are almost certain to win taking their points tally up to seven but will almost certainly still have a much worse goal difference to us unless they win by more than six clear goals. We will almost certainly also beat Zurich in Switzerland on the 21st so a win against either Juventus or Lyon will see us top the group whilst two draws will see us qualify for the quarter-finals.
We drew against Juve in the away leg, falling behind to a breakaway goal by Lineth Beerensteyn in the 52nd minute but equalising with a Vivianne Miedema header nine minutes later. It was a game when we had more than enough opportunities to win but were let down by a combination of good goalkeeping by our former keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin and some less-than-clinical finishing by out forwards. In the end, we were happy to settle for the point away from home knowing that that kept us top of the group.
We welcomed back both Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza to our matchday squad at the weekend, Leah coming on as a 69th minute substitute; I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see both of them start this game.
It is unlikely that any other of our injured players will make the squad. Kim Little is still out with her knee problem; Lina Hurtig with her hamstring. Neither was pictured in this week’s training pictures, unlike Teyah Goldie who was as she continues her recovery from her March ACL injury. It is possible that she might just get a place on the bench (but would be most unlikely to get minutes on the pitch so probably won’t be included as yet). Beth Mead is out for the rest of the season with her ACL.
The issue of player loading is becoming more prevalent as the frequency of high-intensity games (both at club and international level) continues to increase. Women players are something like six times more likely to pick up ACL injuries than their male counterparts which so far no-one has really got to fully understand. Whilst there are fewer WSL matches than in the PL there are six international breaks rather than four and major international tournaments every summer meaning that top players never have complete downtime.
The typical top men’s first-team squad will have something like 23 full international players and up to 8 others who are younger or less experienced. Arsenal Women have 19 full current (or recent past) full internationals and two less experienced players available as well as four or five 16-year-olds who have made the subs bench on occasions. Injuries, therefore, have a far more immediate impact on the remaining squad who find themselves having to play in unfamiliar positions or having to learn the movements of those players. It is little surprise that we aren’t looking anywhere near as fluent now as we were at the start of the season as everyone is constantly adjusting to change.
Viv Miedema seems back to her usual self after she requested and was granted a mid-season break due to both physical and mental exhaustion. She had looked a pale shadow of her usual self earlier in the season.
Likely starting 11
Manuella Zinsberger (GK)
Laura Wienroither, Rafaelle Souza, Leah Williamson, Steph Catley
Lia Wälti, Frida Manum
Katie McCabe, Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Food
Kaylan Marckese (GK), Naomi Williams (18 year old GK), Lotte Wubben-Moy, Jen Beattie, Noëlle Maritz, Jordan Nobbs, Mana Iwabuchi, Michelle Agyemang (16 year old forward), Katie Reid (16 year old midfielder)
Players to be wary of
- Lineth Beerensteyn – showed in the first leg how dangerous she can be. None of our defender on the night could match her pace.
- Pauline Peyraud-Magnin – our ex-goalkeeper and the French No 1. Still an excellent keeper, our strikers will have to do better than last time to beat her. I hope that Viv Miedema can extend her goalscoring sequence.
The game is at the Emirates with a 20:00 kickoff. It will feel bitterly cold with a Northerly wind giving a wind chill temperature of zero degrees centigrade so do put on extra layers if going to the ground. As I write this on Tuesday afternoon tickets are still available from Arsenal.com. Prices are £6 / £12 for the lower tier and £17:50 / £35 at club level.
If not at the ground the match will be streamed live on the DAZN Youtube channel free of charge.
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