Title-chasers & part-timers eye FA Cup last eight

Wales keeper Laura O’Sullivan will aim to inspire Cardiff Ladies to the FA Cup quarter-finals
Date: Sunday, 26 February Time: 14:00 GMT Venue: Kingsmeadow, London
BBC Coverage: Live television coverage on BBC Two and live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Following the international break, English women’s domestic football returns this weekend with the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The eight ties have produced some fascinating match-ups, including a blockbuster clash between two Women’s Super League title challengers.

There also remain plenty of opportunities for upsets, with seven sides from outside the WSL among the 16 teams still in the competition.

Here are some of the stories to look out for this Sunday.

Chelsea stand in Arsenal’s way – again

The most eye-catching tie sees Chelsea host Arsenal at Kingsmeadow, with the Blues having ended the Gunners’ FA Cup hopes in the past two seasons.

Chelsea thrashed Arsenal in the 2020-21 final – played in December 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic – before the Blues defeated Jonas Eidevall’s team in the semi-finals last season – with Emma Hayes describing both as “dominant” performances.

The sides met at Emirates Stadium in the WSL in January, a late Sam Kerr header earning Chelsea a 1-1 draw. They will face each other yet again next week in the League Cup final, before a final league match on 21 May.

Both are through to the Champions League quarter-finals too, meaning five meetings in a season remains possible.

It is not a good time for Arsenal – without a WSL win in 2023 – to be facing a Chelsea side going for a third consecutive FA Cup crown, but Eidevall believes scheduling has not been kind to them. “We are not performing to the level we can and I take responsibility,” he added.

Lower-league sides eye upsets

Coventry United celebrate a goal
Coventry United have won three of their past four games in all competitions

The only side remaining outside the top two divisions are part-time fourth-tier side Cardiff City Ladies, who entered the FA Cup in the third round of qualifying but are still going strong after six successive victories in the competition.

Cardiff – who despite their name are not affiliated with the men’s Championship club – stunned third-tier Burnley 4-1 away from home in round four to book a trip to second division Lewes, and are one win away from an FA Cup quarter-final.

Another side aiming to cause a shock are Coventry United, rock bottom of the Championship, who travel to WSL strugglers Brighton.

Coventry are five points from safety in the second tier but have found some form. After losing their first 11 league matches, they have now won two of their past three, and travel to a Brighton side with the leakiest defence in the WSL – 39 goals conceded in 11 matches, including six last time out at home to Aston Villa.

Seagulls boss Jens Scheuer is wary of Coventry’s threat, and told his media conference on Thursday: “Maybe they are the underdog and we are the favourite. But it is not an easy game, maybe more difficult than Chelsea or Manchester City. We have to be serious, and have full focus on this game.”

Bristol City v Manchester City, part one

Bristol City Women exit the tunnel
Bristol City are second in the Championship, level on points with London City Lionesses with a game in hand

There are sometimes coincidences in football which make you wonder whether a higher being is in charge of the fixtures and cup draws. Such is the case this week with Bristol City and Manchester City.

On Sunday, Championship side Bristol City host top-flight title-chasing Manchester City in the women’s FA Cup. On Tuesday, Championship side Bristol City host top-flight title-chasing Manchester City in the men’s FA Cup.

The difference, other than gender, comes in the form of the respective Bristol teams – while the men are firmly mid-table, the women are battling for a return to the WSL after two years away.

Bristol City Women, who added quality and experience when they signed Rachel Furness from Liverpool this month, will aim to set the tone on Sunday for what could be a remarkable week for the club.

Manchester United’s bogey side

On paper, WSL title-chasers Manchester United hosting Championship mid-table side Durham appears a mismatch – however, the north-east side have an exceptional record against the Red Devils.

United have won only one of their past five meetings with Durham. When the sides met in the 2018-19 Championship season, United won 18 of 20 matches – but were beaten 3-1 at Maiden Castle, before being held to a goalless draw at Leigh Sports Village by the Wildcats.

Earlier this season, Durham stunned United in the League Cup group stage, winning on penalties after Sarah Robson scored a 95th-minute equaliser. Another shock is in their sights.

Nobbs in superb form

There are three all-WSL ties in round five, including Aston Villa travelling to West Ham in good form. They are unbeaten in the league this calendar year and thumped Fylde 11-0 in the previous round of the FA Cup.

While Rachel Daly continues to score freely for club and country, Jordan Nobbs has been a revelation for Villa since joining from Arsenal in the summer and was named WSL player of the month for February.

Nobbs scored a hat-trick in the 6-2 win at Brighton, to continue her late push for a World Cup place having missed out on Sarina Wiegman’s Arnold Clark Cup squad.

Villa manager Carla Ward praised Nobbs at her media conference on Friday, saying: “She’s been brilliant, she’s an experienced winner. She has been brilliant around the club with the players and staff – now she’s performing on the pitch as well.”

Across the BBC bannerAcross the BBC footer

Source link

Leave a Comment