Sports Mole previews Friday’s Women’s Super League clash between Chelsea Women and Arsenal Women, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Arguably the biggest game of the Women’s Super League season to date takes place on Friday evening, when league leaders Arsenal Women travel to Kingsmeadow, where they face second-placed Chelsea Women.
The Gunners are at risk of being leapfrogged by the Blues, who currently sit two points behind Arsenal, meaning that three points for the hosts will see them move into top spot and still have a game in hand to their advantage.
These two sides faced each other on the opening day of the campaign at the Emirates, where Arsenal claimed all three points in a 3-2 win, thanks to goals from Vivianne Miedema and a brace from Beth Mead.
Ever since then, Emma Hayes‘s side have been playing catch up but they have ensured that they remained within touching distance of the Gunners, so that this game can be the turning point for the reigning champions.
Chelsea will be looking to continue their winning run in all competitions, entering this match following a 1-0 win against an in-form Manchester City side, with Guro Reiten‘s early strike enough to settle that close encounter in West London.
The Blues have the best defensive record in the WSL this season, only conceding six goals in 12 outings, with three of those coming against Arsenal on the opening day, suggesting that the Gunners know what it takes to unsettle the Chelsea backline.
Hayes’s side have not only remained unbeaten on home soil this campaign, they have a 100% record on their own patch in the WSL, winning six out of six while scoring 17 goals and conceding on just one occasion, perhaps meaning that the Blues are favourites for Friday’s clash.
Both sides created many chances in that encounter, but the Gunners had to wait until the 79th-minute for Stina Blackstenius to find an equaliser, with the Swedish international netting her first goal for the club.
Like their hosts on Friday, Arsenal are also unbeaten at home this season, but they have struggled more away from Meadow Park, and will need to perform better against Chelsea to get back to winning ways on the road, having picked up just one point from their last two away fixtures.
Eidevall’s side will take confidence from their triumph in the reverse fixture, but their recent form suggests that they may struggle to get a foothold in this match early enough to prevent Chelsea taking control, having fallen behind to both Manchester City and Man United in recent weeks.
In contrast, Chelsea will know that they can get the better of Arsenal, as they did so in the FA Cup final at the beginning of December, when goals from Fran Kirby and a brace from Samantha Kerr sealed a 3-0 win for Hayes’s side.
Defeat for the Gunners on Friday will put a massive dent in their quest to lift the WSL trophy in May, as it could leave them four points behind Chelsea, if the Blues win their game in hand, which will be played at the end of April.
Chelsea Women Women’s Super League form:
Chelsea Women form (all competitions):
Arsenal Women Women’s Super League form:
Arsenal Women form (all competitions):
South Korean international Ji So-Yun just missed out on lifting the Asian Cup with her nation on Sunday, but she will now be available to Chelsea after the conclusion of that tournament.
Arsenal’s Katie McCabe wills serve her one-match suspension after receiving double yellow cards against Man United, meaning that Steph Catley will start in the left-back role, with Leah Williamson potentially coming back into the starting 11 alongside Jennifer Beattie in the heart of defence.
Blackstenius could be handed her first WSL start after netting the equaliser last time out, coming into a front three also including Miedema and Mead.
Chelsea Women possible starting lineup:
Berger; Nouwen, Bright, Carter; Reiten, Andersson, Ingle, Cuthbert; Harder, Kerr, Kirby
Arsenal Women possible starting lineup:
Zinsberger; Catley, Williamson, Beattie, Maritz; Maanum, Walti, Little; Blackstenius, Miedema, Mead
We say: Chelsea Women 2-1 Arsenal Women
Given their positions in the table it is likely to be a closely-fought encounter on Friday, with Arsenal expected to test Chelsea’s defence which has been so strong this campaign.
Chelsea will be playing in front of a sell out crowd in Kingsmeadow, and home advantage could play a pivotal role in the result, with the Blues just edging a massive three points.