Preview: Manchester City travel to a struggling Birmingham

Manchester City's Caroline Weir and Birmingham City's Emma Kelly battle for the ball.
Manchester City's Caroline Weir and Birmingham City's Emma Kelly battle for the ball during the FAWSL match at Sportnation.Bet Stadium. (Photo by Nick Potts)

St. Andrews will welcome Manchester City on Sunday afternoon as they host Birmingham in the Women’s Super League.

Both sides will be turning their attentions to league action after returning from the international break.

Birmingham City

Birmingham, who are under new management, will be looking to get a positive result against an underperforming Manchester City side.

Former Birmingham City player Darren Carter was appointed as successor to Scott Booth on an interim basis in late November. This decision comes after the Blues have only managed to register a single point from a maximum of 24 so far this season.

Despite only registering one point so far this season, Carter’s side sit in 11th position in the table above Leicester City. After achieving promotion last season this season, Leicester are battling to avoid relegation. Birmingham’s point came from a draw away to West Ham back in early October. Summer signing and captain Louise Quinn scored a 67th minute equaliser to cancel out former Blues striker Claudia Walker’s opener.

Opposition

Manchester City travel to the West Midlands needing to collect maximum points against Birmingham if they want any chance of keeping their title hopes alive.

City have massively struggled with the opening stages of the season after being struck heavily with injuries to several first-team players. Despite lacking squad depth, there is still an amount of quality that remains in the team which one expect to be putting in winning performances. However, some of the decision making and some of the football that has been displayed is questionable. This is very clear when Gareth Taylor’s side finished as strong runners-up last time season.

Since winning 4-0 away to Everton on the opening day of the season, City have endured unexpected back-to-back home defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham. In that period they also suffered a 5-0 defeat away to current leaders Arsenal. City were also knocked out of the Champions League in the early rounds. The side also failed to retain their Vitality Women’s FA Cup trophy after they lost 4-0 in the semi-final to 2021 winners Chelsea.

Last time out

Birmingham City had a tough afternoon when they visited Chelsea at Kingsmeadow prior to the international break. Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr ran the show for the home side, with the latter scoring a first half hat-trick. The defending champions finished with a convincing 5-0 victory. 

Meanwhile, the blue half of Manchester were desperate to pick up maximum points to send them upwards in the table. They welcomed Aston Villa to the Academy Stadium, who held Gareth Taylor’s side to a goalless draw at half-time. After a destroying second-half performance by the home side, City claimed a 5-0 win.

Familiar faces

Blues fans will be welcoming a couple of familiar faces as they return to St. Andrews on Sunday afternoon.

Firstly Ellen White, the new all-time top scorer for the Lionesses will be returning to her old stomping ground. City’s number 18 broke former Arsenal star Kelly Smith’s international goal-scoring record at the Keepmoat Stadium over the international break. England hosted Latvia in a World Cup Qualifier on the 30th November in which Sarina Weigman’s side ran out 20-0 winners. White managed to break the record in 101 appearances for her country as she grabbed herself a hat-rick inside 49 minutes in Doncaster.

The striker signed for Birmingham back in 2017 from Notts County and remained there for two seasons. During that time she managed to score 23 goals in 26 appearances. She was very much a fan favourite and also received Birmingham’s Women’s Player of the Season award. 

Another player who will be returning to the club is summer signing Ruby Mace. The youngster spent the second half of last season on loan at the Blues from Arsenal before making the move to Manchester. During her time under then-manger Carla Ward, she scored two goals from her defensive position including a last gasp equaliser away to West Ham. Mace played a key part in helping Birmingham remain in the Women’s Super League last season.

Team news

Manchester City have confirmed that Lucy Bronze is back with the squad to face Birmingham at the weekend. The Lionesses right-back has missed the start of the season after recovering from a knee operation in August. She is set to feature for the first time during the 2021/2022 campaign during Sunday’s game. 

Taylor provided an update on several other players during his latest press-conference, including Steph Houghton and Ellie Roebuck. 

City’s captain Houghton has not featured in the league since she withdrew from international duty with England back in September due to an injury. Her return to training is expected to come after the Christmas break. 

However, goalkeeper Roebuck is scheduled to return to action in the new year after suffering a few setbacks in her rehabilitation. 

The boss also shared a few concerns over Demi Stokes and Jill Scott’s availability for the match. He stated that Stokes has been struggling with an illness (that is not COVID-19 related). Scott, meanwhile, returned from international camp with an ankle injury.

A new era for the Blues

Newly appointed interim head-coach Carter will return to the dugouts at St.Andrews this weekend as his side prepare to take on Manchester City. 

Carter shared his thoughts on his new role at the club.

“It is a great opportunity for me and the journey I am currently on, with my coaching career, and I want to make an impact and bring some positivity to the place.”

Players to watch

Birmingham City: Rebecca Holloway 

Rebecca Holloway is predominately a right-back for Birmingham City but has recently shown her versatility for both club and country.

“I’ve seen Rebecca play quite a bit over the years here at Blues,” said Carter. “I think she can do both sides of the game. Will we utilise her at both ends of the pitch? 100%.”

During the recent international break she represented Northern Ireland as they continued their Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign. Over the space of a few days, Northern Ireland faced back-to-back matches against North Macedonia. Kenny Shield’s side won both matches scoring a total of 20 goals. Holloway, who played in midfield across both games, managed to score three goals and registered three assists.

Manchester City: Hayley Raso 

Summer signing Hayley Raso will prove difficult to stop on Sunday afternoon. Her pace, matched by her desire to win the ball, is enough to terrify an opposing defence. 

Raso has only made seven appearances this season so far due to a short spell on the sidelines. The Australian has only managed to provide two assists from her right-wing position. However, before the international break she was subbed on against Aston Villa during the second-half and showed the fans what she is capable of. Throughout her 25 minute stint, the number 13 scored two goals, including her first for the club, as well as providing an assist.

Predicted XIs

Birmingham City: Hourihan; Scott, Louise Quinn, Sandvej, Holloway; Ewens, Robertson, Murray, Lucy Quinn; Pennock, Smith. 

Manchester City: Taieb; Stanway, Mace, Kennedy, Greenwood; Losada, Weir, Walsh; Hemp, White, Raso. 

Where to watch

Birmingham City v Manchester City kicks-off at 2:00 p.m. GMT on Sunday, 12 December. 

The game will be available to stream live for viewers via The FA Player streaming service. 

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