Manchester United and Chelsea go head to head in the WSL on Sunday night in arguably the biggest game of the season so far: the current leaders against the back-to-back-to-back champions.
This fixture finished a shock 6-1 rout for Chelsea last season in the very early weeks of the campaign. But United boss Marc Skinner is adamant his is a ‘totally different team’ since then. The 4-2 Chelsea victory on the final day of last season when Sam Kerr did Sam Kerr things at Kingsmeadow after United had led twice showed improvement and they have come along further still so far in 2022/23.
United have won five games in a row to begin the season, scoring 14 times and yet to concede. They have already won away games against West Ham and Everton that they dropped points in last term and are flying in terms of confidence, especially at home.
Chelsea haven’t been at their consistent best yet this season. A shock defeat to Liverpool on the opening weekend was followed by going behind against West Ham, although they have beaten a Manchester City side who have since hit their own patch of good form.
Chelsea have never lost against Manchester United in any competition, having also knocked them out of last season’s Continental Cup at the semi-final stage, but this could potentially be the closest and most even game the pair have ever played against each other.
When is kick off? Sunday 6 November, 18:45 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Main Event/Football/Premier League (UK) FA Player (International)
What time does coverage start? 18:30 (GMT)
Referee? Cheryl Foster
The big news for Manchester United is that Ona Batlle is in contention after returning to training with the rest of the squad on Friday. The full-back had missed two games with a concussion.
There are no new injuries to contend with. Continuing to make progress with her ACL rehab, centre-back Aoife Mannion is the only player ruled out of action.
Man Utd (4-3-3): Earps; Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell; Ladd, Zelem, Toone; Garcia, Russo, Galton
Fran Kirby remains out with illness, which has seen her limited to one substitute appearance this term and forced her to withdraw from the England squad for November’s international break.
Jelena Cankovic continues to miss out through injury, while Katerina Svitkova is ‘touch and go’ after missing training on Friday, and Melanie Leupolz is still on maternity leave.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Berger; Bright, Buchanan, Eriksson; Perisset, Cuthbert, Fleming, Reiten; James, Kerr, Harder
Manchester United have never beaten Chelsea before and this is arguably their best ever opportunity to do so, with the form they are in, the fact it is at home where they have won nine consecutive WSL games, and haven’t conceded at Leigh Sports Village in the league for almost a whole year.
But as Marc Skinner has admitted, United aren’t yet the finished product. They have given up chances in each game they have played and goalkeeper Mary Earps has had to be the hero as a last line of defence in terms of keeping five successive clean sheets.
United are good enough to score against a Chelsea side that has hardly been bulletproof at the back, conceding against Aston Villa, West Ham, Everton and Liverpool so far.
But what the Blues are is clinical up front. Even if they aren’t completely on top of their game on the day, they have the kind of elite quality in attacking areas to create chances and take them. They could easily be the first side this season to score a WSL goal against United, but expect them at both ends.
Prediction: Man Utd 2-2 Chelsea