Chelsea v Manchester United: Women’s Super League – live | Women’s Super League
3 mins: Millie Bright cuts short another United attack, this time intercepting Batlle’s carefully lofted pass down the line and blamming the ball out of the stadium, Peter Kay style.
1 min: We’re off. United get us underway and get a feel for the ball in midfield before a hopeful hoof upfield is headed away by Bright at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.
Right then. The teams are out and game faces are affixed. Someone is the crowd is holding a “Sam Kerr can I have your shirt?” sign, which we can all agree should immediately disqualify them from getting it. Polite handshakes all round as kickoff awaits.
And from last week, Louise Taylor looks back at United keeper Mary Earps’ road to becoming the world’s number-one No 1:
But back to the matter at hand. Our WSL reporter Suzy Wrack senses United may be ready to pounce on a very-slightly-wavering Chelsea side, as she makes clear in her scene-setter:
… and the live blog. Get your Linekergate news hot off the press here:
And as Linekergate rumbles on, this game will be aired on BBC Two without presenters, pundits or in-house commentators. Hilarious? Absurd? A bit of both? A lot of both?
More on that here:
Man Utd: Earps, Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell, Ladd, Zelem, Toone, Parris, Russo, Galton. Subs: Baggaley, Mannion, Thorisdottir, Boe Risa, Cascarino, Naalsund, Garcia, Thomas, Williams.
Chelsea: Berger, Bright, Buchanan, Carter, Perisset, Ingle, Leupolz, Charles, James, Kerr, Fleming. Subs: Musovic, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kaneryd, Abdullina, Cankovic.
Is the project finally reaching fruition? Manchester United Women burst onto the scene five years ago with a Championship-winning promotion in their inaugural season, but their time in the WSL has since been about consolidation. Until now, anyway: three successive fourth-placed finishes have been followed up this season by a defiant title charge, spurred by the firepower of Alessia Russo and Leah Galton.
The side they’re out to dethrone? Today’s hosts and, chance would have it, the side most closely scrapping with United for top spot. Emma Hayes’ Chelsea are a point behind United having played a game less, so victory today would put them firmly in the driving seat. But a defeat would put them four points off the pace and leave that game in hand worth a whole lot less.
Spearheading Chelsea’s efforts to defend their title has been the similarly unstoppable duo of Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby. The pair’s combined goals-per-game record far outstrips Russo and Galton (Kirby has only played eight times so far and misses out today with a knee injury), and with today’s team’s the WSL’s two highest scoring by some distance, we can reasonably expect a toe-to-toe showdown.
United will be looking to end a hex that has seen them take one point from six WSL meetings with Chelsea. Their cause for belief may lie in their defence: Mary Earps has nine clean sheets from 14, and her side has let in just eight goals all season. With Chelsea stalwarts Magda Eriksson and Pernille Harder set to leave in the summer, a certain end-of-an-era feeling is in the air. And with Hayes’ side having wobbled with a cup capitulation against Arsenal last weekend, United may well be smelling blood.
“We are going to need to be ruthless against Chelsea because you don’t get many chances, so we have to make sure we take them,” said United manager Marc Skinner. “This game won’t define the title,” he added. If you say so, Marc.