Manchester City and Chelsea meet on Wednesday in a likely Women’s Super League title decider.
After FA Cup and international commitments, two sides currently separated by just two points with three games to go are gearing up for an expected winner-takes-all clash at the Academy Stadium in Manchester.
It has been a thrilling, season-long battle at the top and both sides are in blistering form at the business end of term.
Second-placed City head into the crunch fixture having won 12 league games in succession, but Chelsea – still on for the Quadruple – have won six WSL games in a row without conceding a single goal since a defeat to Brighton in February and are unbeaten in 37 league games away from home.
City were dumped out of the FA Women’s League Cup the last time these two sides met in any competition back in January, having also lost the Community Shield to Chelsea last August.
The pair’s most recent WSL encounter also ended in a similar fashion, with Chelsea securing a 3-1 win in October.
But Gareth Taylor’s side are brimming with confidence after thrashing Aston Villa 8-0 in the FA Women’s Cup and in-form Chloe Kelly – who scored a hat-trick in that rout – has warned Emma Hayes’ players City “are peaking at the right time”.
The heavyweight pair have hit 118 goals between them – and together let in only 19 goals in 19 games. Who will prevail? It promises to be a fascinating encounter – and you will be able to follow the action with our live blog on the Sky Sports website and app.
Man City have no fresh injury concerns but captain Steph Houghton continues to struggle with an Achilles injury and looks likely to miss out again.
Chelsea are only without defender Maren Mjedlde, who was last month ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. “Everybody’s good to go. I’ve got a full complement bar Maren to pick from,” said Chelsea boss Emma Hayes.
View from the City camp: ‘Big moment’
Manager Gareth Taylor: “It looks that way [like a title decider] but there is still more football to be played after this game. I think we have shown amazing concentration and desire to get to this point. It is a big moment. These are the reasons why you coach and why you want to be a manager – for moments like this.
“I think it is a great advert for the women’s game – two big clubs slugging it out. These are the moments we should cherish. I think we have developed [since the first league game against Chelsea] – we have experience, more games under our belt.”
Striker Chloe Kelly: “We are peaking at the right time. It’s a crucial time in the season and we have to push on and be at our best. We know what it takes us to win the title and we are focused on how we can break down Chelsea – what we can do to get the result we want.”
View from the Chelsea camp: ‘We’ve prepared for this all along’
Manager Emma Hayes: “They are jovial, they are light, happy to be back… we have had a really good training week. It’s fair to say it’s a big game but it’s no different to big tests you have throughout the year. We always knew we would have to go there and get a result. We have prepared for it all along.
“Will it decide the title? Probably. There are just two games left for both so, for sure it will determine the direction [the title] will be heading. It’s always fiercely competitive, not a lot in it and it can go either way.”
Defender Millie Bright: “It’s a massive game, a massive week but one that we’re ready for. It’s what it’s all about. We do not want to rely on anyone else’s performances.”
‘Huge game… and so difficult to call’
Sue Smith on The Women’s Football Podcast: “Is it going to be the title decider? Yes, definitely. It’s a huge game, Chelsea are still on for the Quadruple – they have done brilliantly in the Champions League. We know the quality Man City have and they will be desperate to get the three points to win the title and stop Chelsea.
“But you look at the attacking talent from both sides; how well Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby are linking up together, the different types of goals that they are scoring.
“And then, City’s front three of Lauren Hemp, Ellen White and Chloe Kelly have been excellent. so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such a difficult game to call.”