In the WSL this weekend, Tottenham and Arsenal meet in the north London derby while Manchester United will play their first-ever game at Old Trafford.
In a landmark moment, Man Utd will play at Old Trafford for the first time when they host bottom-of-the-table West Ham. With the international break in the men’s game, the women’s team will play at the famous stadium, although without the support of home fans.
Casey Stoney’s side will be wanting to mark the occasion with a convincing win. They are looking to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last time out, with the Gunners hot on their heels for third place.
Man Utd vs West Ham team news
- Tobin Heath, Ivana Fuso and Leah Galton remain out with long-term injuries. Alessia Russo will also miss out, but is edging closer to a return following a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
- West Ham will be without Adriana Leon (foot), Lois Joel (foot), Mackenzie Arnold (knee) and Leanne Kiernan (shin splints). Midfielder Katerina Svitkova will hope to continue the form that saw her named Czech Footballer of the Year earlier this week.
Speaking about the Old Trafford milestone, Stoney said: “As a club it is a big step, but for me as a coach it’s green grass, white lines and two goals. I’m more interested in getting a win but for the players, it is a fantastic moment to be able to step out at Old Trafford and play. We need a performance, a win to remember it by.
“We left it optional for the players and did some familiarisation [at the stadium] today. We visited the changing rooms, saw the pitch, so there is nothing new come Saturday. Those that wanted came, we always leave it in the players’ hands to do it how they want to.
“I’m never about playing the moment, it is all about playing the game and make sure we do that.
“It’s only an advantage if you win, it’s a great occasion but we will be focused on how we can exploit them and nullify their threats.
“It will be a fantastic surface for us to play our football and move the ball quickly and break them down. They are defensive in a 5-4-1, it won’t be easy to do that but I know we have players capable.”
Saturday’s north London derby is also set to be played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second time.
The first fixture was a record-breaking affair with 38,262 fans packed out the brand new stadium, which is the highest attendance for a WSL game. Arsenal were 2-0 winners that day, and will be aiming for another three points on Saturday to keep the pressure on the top three.
Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro is looking forward to playing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium again, saying: “It’s an exciting memory. All credit to everyone for making it a fantastic day and cementing that as a really important fixture in the calendar.
Tottenham vs Arsenal team news
- Tottenham team news to follow…
- Beth Mead will serve a one-match suspension after her red card against Man Utd. Leah Williamson is fit after a dead leg, but Jen Beattie (calf), Steph Catley (hamstring), Viki Schnaderbeck (knee) and Lisa Evans (Achilles) are expected to miss out.
“To be back there again, under the circumstances, is really positive for the game. The derby itself is growing. Tomorrow will be a really important game and we’re playing a good team.”
Tottenham are yet to beat Arsenal in any competition since their promotion in May 2019, but head coach Rehanne Skinner is hoping to put that right.
“It is something we are striving towards. Ultimately it will help us keep moving up the table, which is our goal,” she said.
“Whether it be Arsenal this week or someone else next week, we have to start competing and closing the gap on those top four to progress in the direction we want to go in.
“It is a really big occasion, it is a fantastic stadium, in my opinion it’s the best in the world and it has revolutionised a lot of thought processes around sport in such an amazing arena. For the players to have that opportunity in a North London derby is really exciting.
“For everyone it is a massive plus and something we are really grateful for the club to be supporting. It shows a lot about what the club are doing, investing in the women’s team.
“When you go into that type of environment [playing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium] when you don’t do it very often, while it can be perceived as pressure I think for most of the players they see it as a really good opportunity versus it being pressure, including with the fans.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase what we’re about and that’s why I think it’s the biggest shame that we don’t have the fans in this weekend to be honest. That’s definitely the way the players are approaching it, to showcase where we are in a fantastic venue. That’s definitely the route the players are going towards in their mindset.”
In Saturday’s late game, Manchester City host Reading (kick-off 5.30pm) and could go top of the WSL with a win. They are currently two points behind league leaders Chelsea and will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Wednesday.
Man City will remain without captain Steph Houghton though, with manager Gareth Taylor saying: “We are probably looking between a two or three-week period minimum. I think it was just a combination of potential older injury and a nasty scrape down the Achilles. But the good news now is she has seen a specialist who has confirmed that she is able to step things up now.”
Chelsea host Aston Villa on Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm), possibly aiming to reclaim their spot at the top of the WSL table.
Emma Hayes’ side are unbeaten in their last eight games and have not conceded in the WSL since a 2-1 defeat to Brighton at the start of February. They were also 2-1 winners against Wolfsburg in their Champions League quarter-final first leg in midweek.
Speaking about the trip to the south coast, Everton manager Willie Kirk said: “Brighton had a tough start to 2021. They were struggling to find form – but then they went and pulled out four wins in a row.
“They beat Chelsea, ending their very long unbeaten WSL record. We will be up against the team that produced those impressive results, there’s no doubt about that.
“We have struggled to get positive results against Brighton in the past. They are a hard team to play against. They are well organised and very, very fit. It’s going to be a really good game, a tough game.”