Manchester City Women get their 2018/19 season underway as they travel to Birmingham City Women for the opening fixture of the 18/19 season.
Man City Women face SKN St. Pölten tonight in Austria to kick off their 2017/18 UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign.
In goal, Ellie Roebuck should hold on to her place in the starting XI after starting the opening two games of the WSL. It’s sensible to think that Nick Cushing would choose experience over youth in the Champions League, but having fallen foul to that idea while picking the starting XI for both the Yeovil and Arsenal games, we’re going to plump for Roebuck this time around. Cushing is loyal to his players and likes to play young, developing players when he can, and Roebuck fits that bill. The England youth international kept a clean sheet versus Yeovil, where she was barely needed except for a couple of routine stops, but was a little busier against Arsenal last week. Despite letting in two goals, she put in a decent performance and certainly didn’t do anything that would warrant her being dropped from the XI.
As for the back four, it remains unchanged with Abbie McManus, Steph Houghton, Jen Beattie and Demi Stokes getting the nod. If Cushing wanted to keep the centre-back pairing fresh he could start Meg Campbell over Jen Beattie, who only made her return from a lengthy spell out against Yeovil, but the importance of keeping the same back four together week in week out in order to develop a real understanding may trump any potential benefits of rotating out.
In midfield, Keira Walsh‘s ability to keep hold of the ball, mop-up in front of the back-four and dictate play from deep is a vital asset in the Champions League where teams tend to be much more experienced and developed than they are in the WSL. Jill Scott and Izzy Christiansen each have two goals in two games, so they have to start. City only have three out and out central midfielders anyway, so no choice there.
In terms of the forwards, the only change to the team that lined up against Arsenal that would make sense would be one that would see Pauline Bremer make her City UWCL debut. The German has yet to start for the Blues and getting her up and running with her first goal must be in the back of Cushing’s mind. However, Jane Ross has two in two this season and Nikita Parris has played a major role in the nine goals City have scored so far – it’s difficult to argue that either should make way for City’s new signing. Claire Emslie put in a good performance against Arsenal, with the team already utilising her as a player that drives City’s attack. Even if the entire squad was fit, there’s nobody who should be starting over Emslie at the moment.
So, we’ve gone for an unchanged line-up after City’s 5-2 win over Arsenal and think they’ll get the job done over SKN St. Pölten.
Man City Women get their 2017/18 UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign underway tonight as they face Austrian side SKN St. Pölten at the NV Arena in the Round of 32.
Following last season’s outstanding run to the semi-finals, where City were beaten by eventual winners Olympique Lyonnais, the Blues find themselves seeded in the competition for the first time. As a result, City have home advantage in the second leg.
Cushing’s side will be aiming to make it three wins from three games in all competitions, and after the fantastic 5-2 victory over title rivals Arsenal Women at the weekend, confidence going into the game will be high.
Speaking to the BBC, Jen Beattie highlighted that City will look to utilise their experience, “We know they are a really competitive side. Any team who qualifies for the Champions League are of a really high quality.
“Playing against top teams like Lyon last season, we became very adaptable.
“We were able to raise our game even more for those games so we’re looking to use that experience this season.”
City Team News
Surprisingly, City sustained no injuries against Arsenal and so expect the starting XI to remain unchanged bar one or two possible changes.
Tessel Middag, Mie Leth Jans and Karen Bardsley are not expected to make the squad for tonight’s game as they’re still recovering from injury.
Boosts for City may come from the potential involvement of Mel Lawley and Pauline Bremer. The former recently started training again and may be fit enough to make the bench. Meanwhile, Pauline Bremer recovered from a slight groin injury in time to make her WSL debut against Arsenal and could make her City UWCL debut tonight.
SKN St. Pölten play in the ÖFB-Frauenliga and hail from the city of Sankt Pölten, which is around an hour outside of Austria’s capital, Vienna.
Playing under the banner of ASV Spratzern for 7 years following their inception in 2006, the hosts then plied their trade as FSK St. Pölten-Spratzern between 2013 and 2016. Joining forces with Austrian Bundesliga outfit SKN St. Pölten after the 2015-16 season, the sides have played under a united name ever since.
The Austrian side won their first domestic title in 2015 and have defended their title for two seasons in a row, most recently finishing 4 points clear of rivals SK Sturm Graz in 2016-17 on their way to completing a domestic double.
St. Pölten currently sit at the top of the ÖFB-Frauenliga table on goal difference with their most recent win coming last week – 3-0 over the struggling Union Kleinmünchen.
City Player to Watch
Izzy Christiansen. Has been instrumental to City’s play over the past two matches and will want to get her Champions League campaign off to a flying start. Christiansen has scored two goals in two games and given her current form, there’s no reason why she can’t pop up with another goal tonight and keep that run going.
SKN St. Pölten 0 – 3 Man City Women
SKN St. Pölten v Man City Women. KO 19:15 GMT. NV Arena, Sankt Pölten.
The match will be streamed live on Facebook, so keep an eye on our Twitter account where we will be tweeting details nearer KO.
City face an early test as they host Arsenal Women at the Academy Stadium in a showdown that’s likely to have a major impact on the final league standings come the end of the season.
No doubt Nick Cushing’s side will approach the game like any other – after all, it’s the same 3 points on the line as any other match, but getting a win over title rivals so early on in the season could provide a huge psychological boost for the Blues, in addition to the 3 points.
After being handed a start against Yeovil, it’d be expected to see Ellie Roebuck drop to the bench with the more senior Marie Hourihan returning to the fold.
In front of Ireland’s new number one, Cushing could start with the same back-four that started against Yeovil. This unit arguably represents City’s first-choice back-four at the moment and the experience of Steph Houghton and Jen Beattie at the heart of defence will be much needed against an accomplished attacking outfit such as Arsenal. Abbie McManus and Demi Stokes completes the defensive unit at right-back and left-back respectively.
Again, Kiera Walsh sitting in front of the back four is a no-brainer. With goals from both Jill Scott and Izzy Christiansen against Yeovil, it’s difficult to argue for their replacement in the starting line up. Christiansen looks hungry for success at the moment and Cushing would be crazy to take her out of the team for a game where a fired-up player could make all the difference.
Given Claire Emslie‘s impressive City WSL 1 debut, she has to start against Arsenal. Arsenal’s defence is their weak point and Emslie’s pacey, skilful runs have the potential to create chances and keep Arsenal on the back foot for major periods of the game.
Jane Ross scored a sublime back-heeled goal at the weekend and linked up well with Christiansen and Parris throughout the game against Yeovil, so she gets the nod ahead of Pauline Bremer to lead the line, who still may be feeling the effects of a groin strain that kept her out of City’s WSL 1 opener.
Nikita Parris has the pace and attacking instinct to hurt Arsenal on the break, especially if Pedro Losa starts Josy Henning at centre-back, who lacks the speed to deal with with quick counter attacks at times. Unlucky not to get on the score sheet against Yeovil, Parris’ quick feet inside the box won City a penalty for their opening goal, and more of the same would be much welcomed against the Gunners.
Manchester City Women host Arsenal Women on Saturday in what is sure to be one of the biggest WSL 1 games of the season for both sides. With the league likely being decided on head-to-head results between City, Arsenal and Chelsea, both teams will be desperate to secure all three points.
The Blues go into the game on the back of a convincing 4-0 win over Yeovil Town Ladies last Sunday in which they dominated in every area and were unlucky not to score more – it wouldn’t have flattered City if they’d won by 10 goals, such was the gulf in class between the two sides.
City beat Yeovil Town Ladies 4-0 last weekend
It’ll be the 10th time the two sides have faced each other since City rebranded in 2014 and the Blues will be hoping they can replicate their fine display at Yeovil, but Arsenal are a different beast altogether and City will find it tough.
Arsenal notably added forwards Lisa Evans and the extremely talented Vivianne Mediema from Bayern Munich, right-back Jessica Samuelsson from Linköpings, and there was a return for centre-back Josy Henning from Olympique Lyonnais over the off-season. The signings of Samuelsson and Henning adds defensive solidity to a sometimes unbalanced back four, and the addition of Evans and Mediema bolsters Arsenal’s already impressive forward roster.
When the currently injured Mediema is fit, Arsenal’s forward line will surely be lethal, but for now City will ~only have to deal with likely starters Danielle Carter and Euro 2017 Golden Boot winner Jodie Taylor. No pressure there then.
It goes without saying that Arsenal’s biggest threat is likely to come from Jordan Nobbs. The midfielder will be at the centre of Arsenal’s game plan and will be involved all over the pitch. Nobbs possesses fantastic passing ability and is one of the best when it comes to shooting from distance – something City found out in their 1-0 Spring Series defeat! City will have to be on the top of their game if they’re to stop her from running the show.
City Team News
With a bit of a surprising team selection at Yeovil, Cushing will have a few more players at his disposal than we predicted in our Yeovil City XI last week.
OUT: No return date is in sight for Mie Leth Jans, who was injured in Denmark’s second group game in Euro 2017 versus the Netherlands. Karen Bardsley was spotted running on Tuesday but is still expected to be out after fracturing her leg, again at Euro 2017. Mel Lawley’s recovery is going well, wearing boots for the first time since her injury today, but we’d guess she’s a little way off returning just yet. Tessel Middag is also out with injury.
Mel Lawley returned to training today
IN: Jen Beattie made a return to the City side against Yeovil, being replaced by Megan Campbell after 69 minutes, so expect the Scottish international to feature against Arsenal in some capacity. Pauline Bremer was ruled out of City’s trip to Yeovil after suffering a slight groin injury, but manager Nick Cushing confirmed that keeping her out was precautionary and that she should be available for selection in time for Arsenal. The German is yet to make her domestic debut for City and some flair up front could make all the difference. Stanway is also available for selection after her goal-scoring return at Yeovil following an injury while on England duty over the summer.
Last 10 Games
The two teams last met in May in what would prove to be City’s sole defeat of the Spring Series with Arsenal nabbing all three points courtesy of a brilliant Jordan Nobbs free-kick deep into the second half.
We took a look at some stats from the last 10 games between the two sides.
City Player to Watch
Claire Emslie picks out Georgia Stanway for her second assist of the game and City’s 4th goal
Claire Emslie. Finishing the game with two assists to her name, the forward put in a sublime performance on her City WSL debut at Yeovil last weekend and she will undoubtedly be going into the game against Arsenal full of confidence. The visitors can leave space in behind their defence, so Emslie’s pace and link-up play with Nikita Parris could prove to be the key that unlocks Arsenal’s defence.
The outcome of this game is a tricky one to predict as there are so many unknowns. City’s squad has changed a considerable amount since the two sides last played, and so it’s difficult to judge how it’ll now fare against a strengthened Arsenal side in its first real competitive test.
Still, City looked sharp against Yeovil and Bremer could well make her WSL debut for the club, and if her debut goal against her former club Olympique Lyonnais in the 2017 TILC is anything to go by, it might be one to remember.
Man City Women 2 – 1 Arsenal Women.
After finishing below both of their main rivals in the Spring Series, Arsenal Women will be hoping that their flurry of summer signings will be able to make a serious impression when they visit the Blues on Saturday.
Ahead of one of the biggest games of the season for both sides, we spoke to Tim Stillman from Arseblog to get his views on the game, Arsenal’s new players and Man City Women.
CWB: Arsenal have been tipped to win the WSL 1 after strong recruitment over the summer. Do you think the signings Arsenal have made will prove to be the final push needed to win Arsenal some silverware this season over City and Chelsea?
Tim: I think Arsenal certainly have the players to win the title – but I think they did last year too. It has been another summer of strong recruitment and there’s so much depth now. The issue is balancing the team and that’s where City certainly had the edge over Arsenal last season. Pedro is fond of tinkering with the formation and the personnel so we never seem to get a settled line-up. Whether or not we can win the league again will depend on whether he can find that cohesion. There are so many good players in attacking positions and he has a tendency to try and shoehorn them all in. Heather O’Reilly played at left-back on Sunday, with Beth Mead on the left wing.
CWB: Arsenal have a loaded forward line that includes Jodie Taylor, Euro 2017 winner Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead and Danielle Carter. With so many great forwards, how do you think Pedro Losa will keep them all involved and happy? Do you think he’ll be able to field a balanced side considering all four players will want to get a decent amount of minutes over the season?
Tim: This is my fear to be honest. He plays a front 3 and he isn’t afraid to rotate, to say the least. I think they will all get a fair amount of minutes, the problem I foresee is that that will be to the detriment of a settled line-up. Jodie Taylor’s contract is up in December, so she will probably leave mid-season, but even losing a quality striker like that won’t hurt us too much overall. In fact, it might help!
CWB: Social media was rife with complaints about Pedro Losa playing players out of position and not playing the same team consistently enough throughout the 2016 WSL 1 and Spring Series. Do you think he’ll repeat that this season? If Arsenal want to return to winning silverware, can he afford to?
Tim: In the Spring Series, he seemed to have settled the team down a little more and the improvement was obvious. I was beginning to be quite optimistic that Pedro might have learned a lesson, but then on the opening day he selects another unfamiliar starting line-up and it so very nearly cost us. I’m not sure he will change to be honest. Rotating the attack is fair enough, especially with the options he has. But it would be nice if he could try and keep the defence and midfield a little more consistent. A lot of City’s success over the last 2 years has been built on a settled line-up and a pretty tight squad. That doesn’t mean that’s the only way to succeed of course, but there are fewer games in women’s football, the need for rotation is less.
CWB: Much has been said about Miedema being the player that’ll be the catalyst for Arsenal’s return to the top of women’s football in England. Do you agree? What impact do you think she’ll have on Arsenal this season?
Tim: I think she’s a superb signing. Outsiders or people with a casual interest assume that Arsenal have slipped away a little due to City’s spending, but that’s only partially true. Arsenal have spent a lot on players and brought in some big names on big salaries. But Miedema might just be the pick of the lot – certainly while Kim Little is injured. Her record speaks for itself at such a young age. I interviewed her a few weeks ago and what came through so strongly is that she is a very independent, clear thinking young woman with wisdom far in advance of her years. If she stays fit, I would think she’ll be top scorer in the league. Arsenal have good strikers in Mead and Taylor, but Miedema is a cut above.
CWB: Not counting Miedema, who do you think will be Arsenal’s biggest threat at the Academy Stadium on Saturday?
Tim: Miedema is actually injured at the moment and unlikely to play. Dan Carter poses a huge threat – especially when she plays on the left and she can cut inside. But Jordan Nobbs is probably the jewel in Arsenal’s crown at the moment, she has everything and she’s really starting to dominate games now. I think she’s fast becoming one of the best midfielders in the world.
CWB: City have had a number of ins and outs over the summer. What’s your assessment of City’s business? Have City brought in the right players? Do you think City can be successful without Lucy Bronze?
Tim: Like I said, City’s biggest strength has been continuity over the last year or two, Arsenal and Chelsea have similar issues in that they have lots of attacking players and don’t quite know how to fit them all in. City have had that continuity, so losing players like Bronze and Duggan tests that advantage. Quality has been replaced with quality, Pauline Bremer in particular is an excellent signing. Just as important, getting the likes of Houghton, Scott, Bardsley, Beattie and Campbell on new deals maintains that core. But I think it might take City a short while to settle, Bronze is a big miss and so crucial to the attack. Cushing will have to find another way of making that right hand side dangerous. City’s recruitment is very smart, they don’t just follow the ‘Hollywood’ route and splash the cash, they identify players with a purpose in mind.
CWB: Which City player do you think will be the most influential in the game? Is there anyone that worries you?
Tim: A lot of City’s players worry me! Jane Ross is such a great finisher and Izzy Christiansen is really coming along. Jill Scott is always dangerous. But Nikita Parris could hold the key for City, Arsenal tend to struggle with players like her, that commit defenders.
CWB: Suppose you had the power to sign one City player for Arsenal, who would be your pick?
Tim: I would take Steph back in a heartbeat! I think we’re well stocked in attack and midfield and Josy Henning is an excellent centre half. But I think we could do with a real leader back there and Steph certainly fits that bill.
CWB: If you could single out one thing that City might look to exploit in Arsenal’s play what would it be?
Tim: Our back four pushes up very high and we’re very susceptible to the long ball over the top – as we saw for Ellen White’s first goal on Sunday. Arsenal play such a high line and our full-backs really push on, so one long ball into the channels and we’re always vulnerable. We had Louise Quinn sent off on Sunday too in exactly this scenario, a long ball over the top for Ellen White and Louise was exposed and had to take Ellen out. That said, I think we ought to be slightly more compact in Manchester.
CWB: What are your predictions for the season for both City and Arsenal?
Tim: I think the WSL is going to be really tight this year and Arsenal and City will both be up there challenging – but ultimately I think Chelsea might just nick the title and Arsenal and City might take the domestic trophies between them.
CWB: Thanks, Tim!
Danish International Nadia Nadim has signed for Man City Women in a deal that sees her join the club in January 2018 from NWSL side Portland Thorns.
Nadim will wear the #10 shirt.
View Nadia’s first interview with the club:
It was a successful afternoon for the Blues as they comfortably beat newly-promoted outfit Yeovil Town Ladies 4-0. In truth, City barely got out of second gear such was their dominance throughout the game and could’ve doubled the scoreline.
We took a look at 4 things that stood out to us during the game.
1 Losing Lucy Bronze might not be as bad as we all feared
There’s been a grey, depressing cloud hanging over the club since Lucy Bronze swapped City for Olympique Lyonnais in August, with some fans even threatening to stop attending games altogether. While that’s a little extreme, the worry that a lot of City’s fanbase feel is understandable – that City is a much-weakened side as a result of her departure.
True, you can never really compensate for losing a world-class player, and Bronze is probably the best right-back in the world right now, but City fans can take some solace in the performance put in by Abbie McManus on Sunday.
Granted, City travelled to a Yeovil side that struggled to get out of their own half for large parts of the game, but McManus put in a strong showing. Neat, quick passing between herself, Houghton and Emslie kept play fluid down City’s right and McManus was defensively solid on the rare occasions she was called upon.
McManus doesn’t have the pace or attacking threat of Bronze, but it’s not like City have downgraded from a Rolls Royce to an old Nissan Micra – McManus can defend well and is capable of supporting City’s attacking players from deep when needed. To replace the attacking threat Bronze has taken with her to France, the onus should be on the Blues’ attacking players to improve, not McManus; their often-shocking forward play was covered up by Bronze’s brilliance on numerous occasions last season and that can’t continue if City want to be successful.
Remember, McManus filled in at right-back when Bronze was injured in 2015 and City didn’t implode.
2 Beattie is back
Welcome back Jen Beattie
It seemed like Jen Beattie was starting to turn into the sort of player who’d be constantly locked in a cycle of picking up an injury, returning to fitness and then getting injured a short while after returning.
Beattie was all set to head to the Euros with Scotland but picked up an injury in their last training session before heading out to the Netherlands that kept her out for more than 3 months.
Having only just started to run again in late August, it didn’t look like the defender would return to the side so soon, but it was a surprise when she was named in the starting XI.
Beattie lined up alongside Houghton in the heart of City’s defence, a partnership that was instrumental in conceding just 4 goals as City won the 2016 WSL 1 title, and didn’t put a foot wrong all game. Jen looked fit and sharp, something that couldn’t be said on her previous return from injury towards the end of the Spring Series, and joined in with City’s display of passing dominance by spraying passes across the park throughout the game.
If Beattie can stay fit all season it’ll be a huge boost for the Blues.
3 Izzy is reborn
Izzy scores from the spot
Often at less than her best last season, Christiansen looked tireless in the centre of midfield from start to finish. With the departures of Carli Lloyd, Toni Duggan and Kosovare Asllani, it seems as though Christiansen has realised that this is her chance to shine.
Christiansen constantly provided support up the wings, played in through-balls to Ross and Parris and was a willing runner for 94 minutes – a great display that was rounded off by her opening goal from the spot after 7 minutes.
If she continues playing like that it’ll be difficult for anyone to replace her in that role.
4 Everybody loves Emslie
Emslie’s mesmerising run to assist Jane Ross
What a domestic debut! After scoring on her Scotland debut just over a week ago, Claire Emslie continued her form in a purple shirt (yes, City wore the away kit!). The Blues’ new signing impressed throughout, making pacey, driven runs up the right wing all game.
The standout moment of the match was her mazy run beyond two of Yeovil’s players before cutting the ball back to Jane Ross, who finished the chance off with a cheeky back-heel.
Emslie almost had a perfect POTM performance after going close in the second half, but her shot was held by Yeovil ‘keeper Megan Walsh. However, two assists on your debut isn’t bad!
After the game, Emslie spoke about her delight in signing for the Blues and it certainly seems that City have got a very promising player on their hands.
A special shout out goes to Esme Morgan who made her WSL debut at just 16 years old having made her senior City debut in Toulouse in August.
FT: Yeovil Town Ladies 0 – 4 Man City Women (Christiansen ‘7, Ross ’37, Scott ’59, Stanway ’83).