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.
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 had a short but tough pre-season, finding themselves beaten comfortably by 1. FFC Frankfurt and Montpellier HSC, but triumphed over current Champion’s League holders Olympique Lyonnais in a game that saw City put in brilliant defensive and attacking displays to grab a late win.