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.