As the most successful team in the competition’s history, we have the chance to lift a record fifth FA WSL Continental Cup on Wednesday evening, but a tough test stands in our way.
Manchester City - the only other team to have won the trophy since 2011 - have lost just two games in all competitions this season, and are yet to concede a single goal in this knockout phase so far.
There’s no understating the magnitude of the task Joe Montemurro’s side face at Adams Park but, given our recent seven-game unbeaten streak, we’re heading into this match in good form too.
We’ll need to maintain that fearless mentality and, ahead of the game, we preview the match with a look at how we reached the final, a view of the opposition, one to watch and a look back at the last time we faced Manchester City at this stage of the competition.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
After finishing second in a group containing Watford, Millwall Lionesses, London Bees and Reading - the only side to beat us - we were drawn against Group One North winners Sunderland in the quarter-finals.
Jordan Nobbs, Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead all scored that afternoon as we beat the Black Cats 3-1 at Meadow Park to set up a final-four clash with Reading. But this time, we would come out on top against the Royals.
Mead struck again to cancel out Brooke Chaplen’s early opener, but Reading hit back with 20 minutes left through Lauren Bruton. With the game heading into the closing stages, Miedema scored before Nobbs netted an 82nd-minute winner to book our place in the final.
Manchester City, on the other hand, had a much more routine journey to Wednesday’s decider. After cruising through the group stage with four wins from four, Nick Cushing’s side bypassed Bristol City and Chelsea to reach their third Continental Cup final in four years.
Going strong in the Women’s Super League, Continental Cup and SSE Women’s Cup, Manchester City have been a dominant force this season.
Nikita Parris has undoubtedly been their key player so far, netting nine goals in 17 appearances this season, while Claire Emslie and FA WSL Player of the Month Georgia Stanway have also chipped in with six strikes each.
The latter is having a season to remember. Just 19 years old, Stanway scored an unstoppable late goal as City clinched a dramatic draw against title rivals Chelsea, before she received her first-ever call-up to the England Lionesses’ SheBelieves Cup squad.
Despite their abundance of attacking talent, though, Birmingham proved there is a blueprint to beat Cushing’s side. Blocking the lines through to City’s forwards and pouncing on defensive errors, Birmingham won 2-0 against the run of play. If we are to have the same success on Wednesday, we will need to be just as clinical.
LAST TIME WE MET
We were made to pay for our profligacy in front of goal back in the 2014 Continental Cup final. Chasing our fourth consecutive title, a combination of missed chances, Karen Bardsley’s saves and Isobel Christiansen’s towering header saw us slip to defeat at Adams Park, as City secured their first major honour.
Since then, they have lifted the Continental Cup a second time, won their first-ever Women’s Super League title and were also crowned FA Women’s Cup champions last May.
While the spine of City’s team has largely stayed the same during that time, just five of our matchday squad from that 2014 final are still at the club, while Joe Montemurro has also taken over as our manager since then.
ONE TO WATCH
One of those players is Leah Williamson. Our Centre of Excellence graduate started in midfield on that night, but expect her to line up at centre back on Wednesday evening.
The England youth international bounced back from that cup final heartbreak to help us lift the trophy the following season, starring in an unfamiliar role at left back, and her career has continued on an upward trajectory ever since.
Despite being sidelined for brief periods over the past couple of seasons, Williamson has always responded strongly and after forcing her way back into our starting XI, was called up to England’s senior team for the first time back in November.
Still only 20, Williamson has already made 73 first-team appearances and knows exactly what it takes to deliver on the biggest stage of all.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
We will be providing live updates on our Twitter account - @ArsenalWFC
Kick-off at Adams Park is at 7pm (UK time) - and you can watch the game LIVE on the FA WSL’s Facebook page here
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