The Continental Cup final is set to take centre stage at Selhurst Park Stadium on Sunday. A sell-out crowd of 24,000 will watch as long-time rivals Arsenal and Chelsea square off for the first piece of silverware this season.
We take a look at how the Gunners and the Blues punched their ticket to the final.
How they got here
The Gunners, just like their competitors, entered the Cup in the knockout stage due to their UEFA qualification. In the quarter-finals, Arsenal shut out Aston Villa, 3–0.
The semi-final against Manchester City, last season’s champions in this fixture, was an exciting nail-biter. The two sides both pitched clean sheets throughout the first 90.
Arsenal forward Stina Blackstenius scored three minutes into extra time, and the Gunners held on to the slimmest of margins. Sabrina D’Angelo was in the net for both clean sheets, however, she suffered an injury on international duty with Canada.
The Blues continued their incredible run getting to the Continental Cup final. The quarters saw them control the entire match against Tottenham, jumping out to a 3–0. Spurs scored a 94th-minute tally to get on the board, but Chelsea was in control from start to finish. The semi-final against West Ham was a pure show of dominance.
The Blues outshot the Irons 18-1, had 70% possession, and most importantly, put seven in the West Ham net. Sam Kerr, perhaps the top striker on the planet right now, had four of those goals. Another clean sheet for Ann-Katrin Berger showed the quality of the entire Blues lineup.
What to expect
Excitement. Fireworks. Lots of chances. And two teams with both a healthy respect and a healthy disdain for each other. As the league’s top two teams for the past decade, both sides know what the other is capable of.
This match should be closely contested, and will certainly leave fans breathless.
The Arsenal midfield is where they should be their strongest. Captain Kim Little and Lia Walti have been stalwarts for the Gunners. They were the main reason for the strong match against Chelsea last time out. The Arsenal backline is also top-tier.
Centre-backs Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza are as good as it gets at the position.
A huge question is, can the Gunners finish? Blackstenius and Caitlin Foord have both been having great seasons. However, in their last match against Chelsea, Arsenal dominated the stat line. The Gunners had a decided edge in possession, corners, total shots, and shots on target. Unfortunately, they could not put it together and were shut out.
On the other side of the ball, Chelsea had but three shots on target, and two of those found the back of the net.
Chelsea has been the team to beat in the WSL for the past five seasons. They have won the WSL title in four of those seasons, including the last three straight. The Blues have been in the Continental Cup final the past three seasons, winning in 2019/20 and 2020/21 before falling to Manchester City last season.
Chelsea have been in spectacular form this season, going undefeated in their previous 21 matches in all competitions.
The Chelsea squad is full of world-class stars. Berger is one of the top keepers in football, and her backline is top-class. Millie Bright (who probably should have been in the FIFPRO World 11) leads a defense that can quickly bring the ball up.
A steady midfield featuring Sophie Ingle and Erin Cuthbert is always an offensive threat. The front line boasts Guro Reiten and Lauren James, who are both playing the best football of their careers right now.
Oh, wait — they also have Sam Kerr. As of late, the Australian has had the Gunners’ number. To be fair, she has had everyone’s number.
Capable of scoring at will, a goal-scorer’s mentality, the physical talents to dominate play, and a wonderful intelligence of a striker’s place, she is undoubtedly at the top of the game right now. Arsenal will be hard-pressed to keep her off the score sheet.
This match could go in any manner. It could be a shootout, it could be a tight struggle. If the Gunners can finish their chances, they can easily take this. If the Blues keep playing as they have for the past season, they can easily take it. T
he true winners will be the fans that get to watch this epic match — it should be one for the ages.