The FA Women’s Continental Cup returns for round three this weekend. Ella Jerman looks at the five biggest talking points:
City spurred on for the treble
Manchester City v Birmingham
It’s not often said, but it’s been a difficult fortnight for Manchester City.
Their unbeaten start to the Women’s Super League season was brought to an end by Arsenal last weekend, just three days before their hopes of European glory vanished after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid in the Women’s Champions League.
And before that, the Blues had suffered defeat to rivals Manchester United in the previous round of the Conti Cup.
It may all look doom and gloom, but ahead of the Champions League second leg, City boss Nick Cushing said: “If we end up losing to Manchester United and Arsenal, that’ll be the biggest kick this team needs.”
City face Birmingham on Sunday, who sit three points above them in the Group C table on six points, looking to turn their dismal start to the season around.
After winning the Conti Cup and FA Cup last year, success for City this season will be going one step further with the domestic treble. For Cushing, beating Birmingham on Sunday really has become a must.
Future Lionesses go head-to-head
Everton v Manchester United
When Phil Neville announced his latest England squad on Tuesday, there was plenty of outcry from fans in the North West about certain players not being included.
Many fans were left in disbelief when the currently Women’s Super League top scorer, Everton’s Chloe Kelly, was not part of the 21 selected, while Manchester United supporters are of firm belief the Leah Galton is the star of the future.
It turns out that Galton admitted she is not ready to play for England yet following her break from football in 2018, but that doesn’t mean she won’t want to seal the chance one day.
On Sunday, the two forwards will come up against each other in the Conti Cup and by chance, they happen to play for two of Neville’s former sides. His attention may be on next week’s friendly at Wembley for now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still be out to impress.
Can Reading make the Madejski worth it?
Reading v West Ham United
Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham may have pulled it off thus far, but in obsessing over the potential of hosting women’s games in men’s stadiums, some clubs seem to be forgetting it doesn’t always pay off.
Sunday will be the second time Reading have played a Conti Cup fixture at the Madejski Stadium this season, but last time out against Lewes, only 700 turned up to watch in the 24,000-seater.
Manager Kelly Chambers likened the experience to an away fixture, saying it just doesn’t give her team the atmosphere that they crave as players and fans alike called to save such an occasion for the big spectacles.
Luckily, there may be more incentive this time around, as Reading come up against West Ham in a cup competition for the first time since the Hammers knocked the Royals out of the FA Cup semi-final on penalties last Spring.
Arsenal riding the high
Brighton v Arsenal
There’s never exactly a good time to face Arsenal, but right now could potentially be one of the worst.
The Gunners will be travelling to Crawley brimming with confidence after thrashing Slavia Praha 13-2 on aggregate in the Women’s Champions League, Dutch duo Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk both bagging hat-tricks.
The question remains, however, on how long Arsenal can keep it up. For Brighton, it will be all about hoping they can capitalise on the fatigue of the likes of the goal threats Miedema, van de Donk and Mead as the Gunners prepare for their third match in eight days.
Palace hoping for a bit of déjà vu
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
In last season’s edition of the Continental Cup, Crystal Palace took Tottenham to penalties at home, and it was the Eagles who prevailed.
Former striker Kallie Balfour cancelled out Josie Green’s first-half opener to take it all the way, where Palace won 5-3 on penalties.
When Dean Davenport’s side welcome Tottenham back to South London on Sunday, they will be determined to do the same.
A lot has happened in the fifteen months since that victory, with Tottenham now flying high in the WSL, but Palace will take solace in the fact that Spurs currently sit bottom in Group D.
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