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.