FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup Semi-Final: Reading v Arsenal, Sunday 14 January, 2pm – By Sportsbeat
A place in the FA Women’s Super League Continental Tyres Cup awaits either Reading or Arsenal, with the two set to meet in a semi-final showdown at Adams Park on Sunday.
The victor will face Chelsea or Manchester City in the first cup final of this season but the sides will know a big 90-minute performance is required before then.
Reading topped Group One South, which included Arsenal, with four wins from four but required penalties to see off Everton in the quarter-finals.
A 1-1 draw after extra time sent the game into a shootout, with Kirsty Linnett eventually finding the back of the net with the crucial spot-kick.
The Royals were beaten last weekend by Manchester City in the league while Arsenal head to Wycombe off the back of a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea.
Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by Reading in the group stage but managed to qualify as a group runner-up before seeing off Sunderland 3-1 in a quarter-final tie.
The Gunners’ only previous meeting with Reading this season was in this competition when Fara Williams hit a sensational strike from the halfway line to give her side a 2-1 win.
Williams, against her former club, had opened the scoring earlier in the match, with Beth Mead grabbing an equaliser for Arsenal.
These two teams face a pair of league meetings in the near future but will be looking to book a place in the final of the Continental Tyres Cup first.
ONE TO WATCH – Fara Williams (Reading)
After her outstanding showing against Arsenal in the group stage, Williams is surely one that the Gunners need to keep an eye on once again.
A former Arsenal player, Williams is no stranger to Sunday’s opponents and she has five goals in all competitions for Reading so far this year.
WHAT THEY SAID
Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs said: “We want to win every trophy we can. It was disappointing to drop points in our last game but whatever we play in, it’s a big game.
“Cup games are always special for us.
“There were positives against Chelsea that we can take forward into this game. We’ll need to tighten up on a few things because we can’t concede three goals again.
“Joe (Montemurro, manager) coming in and pushing us as players has been fantastic and our last performance showed that. We just need to take our chances and I’m sure we can win.”
Reading manager Kelly Chambers added: “I think we played excellently (against Manchester City) and it’s probably our best footballing display in a first half this season.
“She (Natasha Harding, who made her Reading debut against City after joining the Royals from Liverpool) is a fantastic player and she adds a different dimension to the squad, and that’s what I needed to go forward for the rest of the season.
“We’ll get her involved more and get her playing – definitely.”
FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup Semi-Final: Chelsea v Manchester City, Sunday 14 January, 2pm – By Sportsbeat
Something has got to give as two teams that have proved unconquerable thus far lock horns in the semi-finals of the FA Women’s Super League Continental Tyres Cup this weekend.
Manchester City go to Chelsea as they bid to reach a second successive final – they were crowned champions in October 2016 after beating Birmingham City 1-0 courtesy of an extra-time Lucy Bronze winner.
However, just like Nick Cushing’s City, the Blues are so far unbeaten in all domestic competitions, with Emma Hayes’ side bidding to lift the Continental Tyres Cup for the first time.
Sunday’s hosts Chelsea kept themselves breathing down the necks of City in FA WSL 1 with a crucial 3-2 victory over Arsenal at Kingsmeadow last weekend, Sari Van Veenendaal’s late own goal settling matters.
They finished top of Group Two South with a 100 per cent record and Fran Kirby’s hat-trick inspired the Blues to a 5-1 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals.
Cushing’s troops also won all four of their group games and in the quarter-final they ran out 2-0 winners at Bristol City.
Last weekend, the FA WSL 1 leaders kept themselves two points ahead of Chelsea with their sixth win in as many games, Jill Scott hitting a brace as they beat Reading 5-2.
Chelsea and the Citizens were set to meet in south west London in the league in December but that clash fell foul of the elements and has been postponed until February 1.
When these two teams met in the FA WSL Spring Series earlier this year, a thrilling clash was settled by a strike from Toni Duggan, Cushing’s team running out 1-0 winners at the Academy Stadium in Manchester.
ONE TO WATCH – Nadia Nadim (Manchester City)
Nadia Nadim’s arrival was announced back in September last year but the Denmark international only officially became a Citizens player this month.
It took the 30-year-old forward, who has had spells with Sky Blue FC and the Portland Thorns in the United States, took just six minutes to open her account against Reading last weekend, nodding home from a Nikita Parris cross.
WHAT THEY SAID
Chelsea midfielder Maren Mjelde said: “It is going to be a really tough game, but these are the games we really want to play in.
“We are all so motivated to play against Manchester City.
“Against Arsenal in our last game, there were a lot of goals and we normally don’t concede goals, so we need to be tighter. Maybe that’s what we need to do better if we want to win.
“As a team, we are in a really good place. We have so many quality players now in the squad and everybody can play when they are needed.”
Manchester City manager Nick Cushing said: “Emma and I have spoken before, individually and in press, about how these are real tough games and they are always high-intensity, that’s what coaches and players want.
“We want to go up against the best and we want to show we can play football and that our style and beliefs are able to win games.
“We expect tough games against the top teams.
“It will be a big game. If we prepare properly, we will give ourselves the best chance to win the game.”
FA WSL 1: Birmingham City v Bristol City, Sunday 14 January, 2pm – By Sportsbeat
Two teams in contrasting form meet in a tantalising FA WSL 1 match-up on Sunday as Bristol City travel to Birmingham City.
Bristol sit just a couple of places higher in the league but are in a rich vein of form and look fully adjusted to the rigours of the top tier following last season’s promotion.
Birmingham are one of the FA WSL 1 ever-present sides but are in desperate need of a change in fortunes after a disappointing winter.
Birmingham have won just once since October and have lost their last three games without scoring a goal.
The Blues, who finished fourth last season, currently sit ninth above only winless Yeovil Town in the league but know that a win could see them move up two places.
In contrast, Bristol City’s tails are wagging after a 2-1 win against Everton.
Willie Kirk’s side have won three of their last four in all competitions, with Manchester City and Chelsea the only sides to have beaten them since October.
They sit seventh in the table, one point clear of Everton and three ahead of Birmingham.
This is the first meeting between the sides this season but Birmingham will take confidence from the last time the two sides met.
An Ellen White brace saw Birmingham beat Bristol 2-0 in the FA WSL Spring Series in May just days after they lost the SSE Women’s FA Cup final to Manchester City.
Marc Skinner made five changes to the Birmingham side but they showed how much strength in depth they possess to emerge comfortable winners.
ONE TO WATCH – Ellen White
Ellen White will hope to celebrate an England recall with a five-star display on Sunday and inspire Birmingham to their second win in the league this season.
The forward is perhaps the Blues’ most dangerous player with speed, energy and an eye for goal making her a shoe-in for the England squad.
Bristol may be in form but, if they want to keep that momentum going, then they must keep a close eye on White throughout.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Jess Carter, Birmingham City defender:
“There is no time to sit and dwell over the (Sunderland) game, or the result and feel sorry for ourselves like that, we’ve got to review our last game and prepare for Bristol City.
“It’s good the game is coming up so soon after the Sunderland game.
“We’ll be looking to put things right against Bristol City, we need to learn from our mistakes and take our good home form into the game.
“Bristol are a hardworking side, they are a very together unit, but they’ve got a lot of individual talent in the ranks as well. They’ll come at us and expect to beat us.
“We know it’s going to be a close game, it’ll be a case of who wants it more and who is more clinical in front of goal and get the win.”
Willie Kirk, Bristol City manager:
“I’ll certainly be happy if we can keep our third clean sheet in a row.
“It should be a good game because both teams play a similar type of football and it will be an even match in a lot of areas of the pitch.
“It will be a good test against a team just above us in the table, although we both have the same number of points.”
FA WSL 2: Millwall v Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday 14 January, 3pm – By Sportsbeat
Millwall and Tottenham had contrasting starts to 2018 and both sides now have their eyes firmly set on each other for a forthcoming FA WSL 2 clash on Sunday afternoon.
Spurs currently sit sixth in the league table with seven points, just six points clear of Watford in tenth.
The Lionesses, meanwhile, are lying in third place with 13 points, level with Durham and Brighton & Hove Albion but four points off Doncaster Rovers Belles in top spot.
Since beating Yeovil Town at the start of November it has been a difficult run for the Lilywhites, losing four matches on the spin since that success.
Three 4-1 defeats in a row, at the hands of Brighton, Doncaster and Chelsea, were followed up with another defeat to Brighton, going down 1-0 thanks to a stunning Sophie Perry free-kick.
It has been a promising season for the Lionesses so far though, with the London club hitting their stride in recent months.
Wins over London Bees, Oxford United and Sheffield have seen Millwall move up the standings – with a 5-0 defeat against Reading in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup the only blot on their recent run.
You have to go back to December 2012 for the last time Spurs and Millwall faced off in a competitive match.
Millwall got the better of Spurs that day thanks to strikes from Emma Whitter and Alicia Ferguson.
And a brace from Whitter plus a strike from Abigail Igbavboa was also enough to give the Lionesses a 3-1 victory in the return fixture in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division that year.
ONE TO WATCH – Ashlee Hincks, Millwall Lionesses
Millwall captain Ashlee Hincks has led from the front this season with five goals that have helped maintain the London side’s unbeaten start to their FA WSL 2 campaign.
Hincks skippered the Lionesses to two November wins, scoring a double in the 4-3 comeback victory over London Bees in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup.
The captain was an influential substitute in Millwall’s 2-1 victory over Sheffield last weekend, and plays as a totemic figure for her club, driving them forward at every opportunity.
WHAT THEY SAID
Millwall manager Lee Burch commented: “Against Tottenham, we know what they’re about. We played them in pre-season and we’re preparing well for the game.
“Bianca Baptiste is the main threat for them. She’s a top player. She’s powerful, scores goals.
“The girl Green (Josie) in the midfield tries to dictate play quite a lot. If we can make sure we’re tight to players like Baptiste and then make sure we get our players on the ball, at home we fancy our chances against anyone.”
Ashleigh Neville, Tottenham Hotspur full-back, said: “We were supposed to have the week off but we have the re-arranged Millwall game, so we’re back in training this week and then onto Sunday.
“We are definitely confident for the game, I think three more training sessions to get everyone back in and get everyone around each other.”
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Report courtesy of the FA