The second half of the Women’s Super League is upon us. Brighton & Hove Albion will face Manchester City at The People’s Pension Stadium this afternoon to kick off the January fixtures.
This is one of just three matches that are still taking place this weekend. Elsewhere in the league, games have been postponed due to issues relating to COVID-19.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Hope Powell’s side didn’t have the strongest of finishes to 2021. They fell out of the WSL League Cup after suffering a 3-0 defeat away to West Ham.
Their last league game before the break also ended in defeat. Marc Skinner’s Manchester United claimed a 2-0 win on the road at Broadfield Stadium.
The Seagulls will be looking to start the New Year with a positive result when they face an unpredictable Manchester City side on Sunday afternoon.
They currently sit in fifth position in the overall table, just one place and two points above their weekend opposition. A win for the home side could see them push up into fourth place with the teams ahead not playing their fixtures.
The Cityzens had quite a mixed-bag start to the season, suffering through a major injury crisis. However, they have started to pick up form, having won their last two league games. Wins against Aston Villa and Birmingham City respectively, have moved them several places up the table.
Gareth Taylor will be wanting his side to start the second half of the 21/22 campaign strongly. If City wishes to move up to the top three places or potentially win the title, they must start with a victory on Sunday.
Manchester City had two of their December fixtures postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad. One of those matches has been rescheduled. The Blues will visit Leicester in the League Cup on Wednesday 12th January. The winner of that match progresses to the quarter-finals of the competition.
The last league meeting between the two sides came back in early January of last year. Manchester City hammered their South Coast opponents 7-1 on that day. Steph Houghton celebrated her 150th league appearance with a brace, with Scotland international Caroline Weir also scoring twice. Attacking trio Ellen White, Janine Beckie and Chloe Kelly made up the other goals.
Player To Watch
Fresh from signing a contract extension during the week, Lauren Hemp is a player for the Brighton defence to worry about. Her explosiveness on the ball from the left wing position is so difficult to defend. She also has the ability to turn defenders so easily with her quick and controlled feet when in possession of the ball.
Despite not scoring many goals, the young Lioness star has created the most chances (10) following a ball carry this season in the WSL. (stat via OPTA)
Former Manchester City player Lee Geum-Min will be unavailable for the match. She remains in South Korea to participate in the Asia Cup tournament throughout January/February, confirmed Hope Powell.
New signings Emma Kullberg and Julia Zigiotti have been in training with the team throughout the week. The Swedish pair could potentially make their WSL debut.
In the latest press conference, Taylor provided an update on his squad ahead of Sunday’s trip to Brighton.
The City squad and supporters received a massive boost earlier in the week. Club captain Steph Houghton has returned to pitch-training for the first time since suffering an achilles injury back in September. Taylor revealed that the centre-back is in contention to be back amongst the matchday squad, but her involvement at this stage is currently unknown.
Another welcome edition back to the squad is fellow England international Lucy Bronze. The right-back was due to make her return to action prior to the Christmas break. Unfortunately, that was delayed due to the postponement of the fixture as a result of the ever-present COVID-19.
There was also an update on some of City’s stars who are currently unavailable through injury.
Esme Morgan, who suffered a leg fracture in the 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, is ahead of schedule in terms of her recovery but a return is at least a few months away.
Chloe Kelly is in a good position in terms of her (ACL) recovery and is nearing a return but Taylor stated “there is still a period of time before we see her.”
Finally, Ellie Roebuck has suffered a few setbacks in her rehabilitation but is looking good. She hopes to return to the pitch after the next couple of fixtures.
There was some concerning news that there has been a further two covid cases reported within the squad in the latest round of testing.
Janine Beckie and Keira Walsh both missed time due to the virus prior to the break. It is unknown whether they will feature at the weekend.
Where To Watch
The match will be broadcasted live at 12pm on Sunday 9th January and UK viewers will be able to tune into the action via the BBC Red Button.