Womens FA Cup Final Preview

Everton V Manchester City

This Sunday will see the Womens FA Cup Final from Wembley between Everton and Manchester City. A cup final in November is something new as last season FA Cup will come to its conclusion. The competition was at the Quarter Final stage when the FA ruled there would be no restart to the women’s game after lockdown. Finally, however, the FA Cup is to be concluded.

Road to Final

Everton came from behind to beat Chelsea 2-1 in the quarter finals. After Erin Cuthbert gave Chelsea an early lead goals from Lucy Graham and Valerie Gauvin sent them though. Another goal from Gauvin plus goals form Nicoline Sorensen and Simone Magill ensured a 3-0 semi final win over Carla Ward’s Birmingham City.

City, meanwhile, knocked out Championship side Leicester in the quarter final winning 2-1. A penalty from Chloe Kelly and a Georgia Stanway goal in the first half proving enough despite Charlie Devlin’s 78 minute penalty for Leicester. Steph Houghton gave City the lead in the semi final against Arsenal with a stunning free kick. That was cancelled out by a Jordan Nobbs strike. Sam Mewis restored the lead three minutes later and City comfortably saw out the game.

Current Form

Everton are currently second in the WSL with six wins and one draw. Two big away wins have helped them, however, a four nil at Bristol City and six nil at Aston Villa.

These side have met this season in the Continental League Cup. Danielle Turner gave Everton the lead on 20 minutes, but City staged a second half come back. Rose Lavelle, Chloe Kelly, and Jessica Park securing a 3-1 victory.

After losing to Chelsea in the Community Shield, City won their opening WSL game. They were then held to a shock draw at home by Brighton but bounced back with a win against Spurs. In the last two WSL matches City lost 3-1 at Chelsea and were held to a 1-1 draw at Reading, leaving them 5th in the league.

Managers Thoughts

Everton manager Willie Kirk spoke ahead of the game of wanting to win trophies and using the Cup Final to build success for the club:

“We are building a group of winners and Sunday can be a launchpad for success in the next five years. The players felt when this competition was resurrected it was written in the stars (they would reach the final).

“We did fantastically well against Chelsea and the belief grew and grew”.

“The Challenge for me is to make sure we are not happy just being at Wembley because we have reached our objectives. We want to go one better. There is no point going to Wembley unless you’re going to win”.

Kirk is under no illusions of the challenge his side face this weekend:

“We have to play at our absolute best levels to get success on Sunday.

“We are determined to get back to the days of Everton winning silverware and this is huge for us. It would be even bigger managing to topple one of the teams who are serial trophy winners but winning it regardless of who it is against, would be massive for this club”.

City boss Gareth Taylor also described the prospect of winning the FA Cup as

“One of the biggest things I’ve done.

“It would mean a lot to win the trophy”.

The City manager has said everyone has their part to play if they are to win:

“Everyone wants to be involved on Sunday and everyone will be involved – whether they start the game, are on the bench or even in the stand.

“Everyone has a role to play, its about supporting the team, making sure the team comes first and then going there and competing to bring home a trophy.

“We have a squad of really good players, who want to be part of it, making a difference out there and that’s great for me as a manager.

“We have some good selection choices to make in lots of positions and that’s what you want”.

He also talked about his side being labelled as the favourites for this game:

“I can understand why we’re favorites – when it comes to Cup Finals, there’s often a favorite and an underdog – but its a one-off game and we’ve worked hard to get there”.

Key Players

Everton midfielder Lucy Graham is enjoying a fine start to the season with four goals in five games. Also chipping in with two assists. She will need to be sharpe defensively against the many options Man City have in the middle of the park. The Scotland international has the chance to be the first Everton player to lift the FA Cup since 2010.

Striker Chloe Kelly has manged four goals in her last five games for City. Kelly was an Everton player last season and even featured for them in the earlier rounds. (Players would not normally be able to play for two sides in the FA Cup, but as the competition is being finished this season it is allowed). Speaking to BBC Sport ahead of the game Chloe said:

“I’m absolutely buzzing and can’t wait to get going”.

How To Watch

The match will be played at Wembley but will be behind closed doors. Its a shame as last years final saw a crowd of 43,264 watch Man City beat West Ham 3-0. With the popularity of the Women’s game growing another big crowd would be expected.

The game is being shown live by both BBC One and on BT Sport. Kick off is at 14:00 Sunday 1st November.

Prediction; Everton 1 v 2 Manchester City

Both teams want to win this trophy and will give it everything. Everton have been in great form and it won’t be easy for City. Given their last few results City will want to win and hopefully kick start them moving up the WSL.

Qpr v Cardiff Championship Preview

Cardiff look to continue their good away form as they visit London Saturday to face Queens Park Rangers. A team without a win since the opening round of the Championship. That opening day win over Nottingham Forest remains their only win, with four draws and three defeats. Cardiff come in to the game on the back of three 1-1 draws, but both of their wins have come on the road.

Last season meeting saw the Hoop’s humiliate Cardiff 6-1. Cardiff manager Neil Harris said at his press briefing that he hoped for a different outcome. Rangers will look forward to the visit of the Bluebirds having won the last three meetings between the side at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium. Cardiff have not won at the ground since a 1-0 win in 2010.

Team News

Mark Warburton spoke about Lee Wallace during his pre match briefing saying:

“He’s out on the training pitch, there was some bruising but we’ll see how he is tomorrow”.

Bright Osayi-Samuel may also feature in the fixture (having missed the Barnsley game due to contract negotiations) vs Cardiff with Warburton saying:

“He trained very well today and we’ll see how he is for the weekend”.

Robert Dickie will, however, miss the game though suspension after his red card against Barnsley.

Neil Harris was positive about Harry Wilson, after the Liverpool loanee missed Cardiff trip to Derby.

At his press conference, Harris said:

“Positive developments. No muscle injury, just a hip impingement, which has come from the big spike in minutes he played in the first week”.

Saturday’s game may be too soon for Wilson but Harris expects him to be ready for next week at the latest. Filip Benkovic played 79 minutes for the under 23’s in midweek, whilst it is unlikely Lee Tomlin will be ready.

Managers Thoughts

Warburton has called for his team to be angry and respond against Cardiff. Speaking at his press conference the QPR manager said:

“We’ve had a bad fortnight and we can’t do that. You can talk about Bournemouth and being unlucky not to get all three points; irrelevant. The table doesn’t lie.

“We know what we face Against Cardiff – a very good team and a very physical test – and we have to make sure that we roll our sleeves up and deliver a performance”.

With a demanding run of games for Championship side Warburton talked about how a bad run of results could be costly. He said:

“That’s how it is, such are the demands of this schedule. We’ve had two very disappointing weeks and when the games come at you every three or four days, you can’t have periods like that because it costs you”.

Neil Harris, meanwhile, is wanting consistency both in his team selection and during the game from his players. Speaking to the press this morning he said:

“Consistency in team selection would be nice but with the amount of games we have got we can’t use the same team continuously.

“You want continuity because you want the team to get in a rhythm”.

Between the schedule and Covid testing, Harris says that is affecting his team selections:

“The injuries, ever-changing moments of Covid tests, nervousness around that, its always changing.

“It’s being dictated to by injuries and less than three days between games. Its challenging at the moment. I’d like to pick a settled team”.

Key Players

Defender Yoann Barbet will be in a battle this weekend with Cardiff’s strong set piece play. He will need to be on his game in aerial duels as Cardiff will look to play direct in to Kieffer Moore.

Sheyi Ojo has looked better and better every game and has two goals and an assist this season. Game time is proving good for the 23 year old who has been one of Cardiff’s best players in recent games.

Prediction: Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Cardiff City

Cardiff are proving had to beat and have a good record this season away from home. This will be a close game and hard fought but Cardiff should have the extra quality to take the three points back to Wales.