Preview: Smoking hot Manchester derby awaits WSL

Chloe Kelly of Manchester City is challenged by Millie Turner of Manchester United.
Chloe Kelly of Manchester City is challenged by Millie Turner of Manchester United during the two sides' matchup at Leigh Sports Village on November 14, 2020 in Leigh, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Another Women’s Super League Manchester derby awaits on Friday evening.

Academy Stadium is ready to host its first derby of the 2020/21 season. Manchester United seek the opportunity to find their way back to winning ways when they visit their neighbours tomorrow night.

Team news

As for the home team in this game, problems with injuries seem minor. US international Sam Mewis has not yet featured for City since returning from the international break. This is said to be due because of an ankle injury. Mewis is back in training but for her to make it into the squad this derby might be to asking for too much, too soon.

City will most probably also be without Demi Stokes. Other than that, Gareth Taylor most likely has a healthy and eager squad to choose from.

Casey Stoney’s side is still missing Alessia Russo, Lucy Staniforth and Lauren James. USWNT star Tobin Heath is also sidelined with a long-term injury.

Ones to watch

For City, Chloe Kelly has been outstanding and consistent in her performances so far. Kelly has played 1,033 minutes in total, notching eight goals and six assists.

A similar player across Manchester who is worth mentioning is Ella Toone. She has played 1,144 minutes in total so far, bagging three goals and six assists.

The graphic below compares the two attackers – with Toone in yellow and Kelly in blue.

Graphic chart credit: @Odriozolite on Twitter

In several areas, these two players are very similar. However, what is arguably the most differing trait between them is the fact that Kelly likes to carry the ball when making progressing moves forward. Meanwhile Toone prefers to move the ball with more progressive passes.

This highlights how the both of them play very big parts in their respective teams’ build-up play.

While Kelly attempts less passes on average, she also has a lower passing completion rate than Toone. Although, Kelly attempts more dribbles than Toone which might get her to end up in good positions to cross but also in cramped spaces that might force her to make less safe passes.

We could presume that her tactics are all part of her creative role at City and therefore her choices on the pitch become more risky. So far, that has given City very variable and creative ways to attack.

Their respective heat maps on average per 90 minutes can suggest the theory described above. Kelly’s heat map shows that she moves around in a smaller area down the wing and stays wide to offer width, while Toone’s movement and position is more central.

Chloe Kelly heat map / WyScout
Ella Toone heat map / WyScout

Previous meetings

This is the third time the Manchester derby has unfolded. The previous meetings happened with only a few days apart back in November. One in the league and one in the Continental Cup’s group stage.

Both ended in draws in regular time. At Leigh Sports Village, back in November, United were down 2-0 after goals from City players Chloe Kelly and Laura Coombs at the break. Then United came out and turned things around in the second half to finish the game 2-2 after a Tobin Heath rocket and an equaliser signed Kirsty Hanson.

A few days later, after a goalless 90 minutes event, United went to win on penalties in the Continental Cup in a thrilling derby.

Predicted lineups

Manchester City

Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton, Dahlkemper, Greenwood, Stanway, Walsh, Weir, Kelly, White, Hemp.

Manchester United

Earps; Thorisdottir, A. Turner, M. Turner, Batlle, Groenen, Ladd, Toone, Zelem, Galton, Press.

How to watch the game

This absolute top clash in the Women’s Super League is selected to be broadcasted on TV and several other online platforms worldwide:

United Kingdom – BT Sport 19:00 GMT
Scandinavia and Finland – ViaPlay/NENT Group 20:00 CET
The US, Germany and Italy – Atafootball.com
The US – The NBC Sports App
Australia – Optus Sport
New Zealand – Spark NZ Sport
Canada – Sportsnet.ca

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