Women’s Super League champions Chelsea face Manchester City in this weekend’s FA Cup final with a record crowd set to be in attendance at Wembley.
Holders Chelsea will be looking to complete a League and Cup double but face an in-form City side, who beat them 3-1 in the Continental League Cup final in March.
Chelsea came from behind to beat Manchester United 4-2 on Sunday to seal a third successive league title. City, meanwhile, finished third after recovering from a slow start to the season.
Gareth Taylor’s side suffered with several injuries to key players but managed to turn things around at the start of the year to finish in the final Champions League spot.
Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby stole the show as Emma Hayes’ Blues beat Arsenal 3-0 to win last season’s delayed final in December. But with Kirby set to miss this game with a fatigue-related issue, Chelsea will be looking to their player of the season Kerr to provide the magic once again.
Sportsmail takes a look at the key players and battles, with insight from Sky Sports pundit and England legend Karen Carney, ahead of Sunday’s showdown…
Chelsea hope to achieve a league and cup double after already clinching the Super League
Manchester City, meanwhile, beat Chelsea in the Continental League Cup final back in March
Karen Carney has given her verdict on where the Women’s FA Cup will be heading on Sunday
Both teams come into Sunday’s final in fantastic form, but it’s City who have the slight edge.
Gareth Taylor’s team have won 13 games in a row in all competitions compared to Chelsea’s 11.
City have scored 46 goals in their last 13 games and conceded just five while Chelsea have managed 47 goals but have conceded eight.
City’s last defeat came at the hands of Chelsea, with Hayes’ side edging a narrow 1-0 league victory in February while the Blues’ most recent loss was the Conti Cup final.
Gareth Taylor’s side have won 13 on the bounce and scored 46 goals in their last 13 games
‘City have really come into form,’ Carney tells Sportsmail. ‘They’re high flying in scoring, everyone is chipping in and they’re not conceding many.’
Carney was watching on as Chelsea came from behind to beat United last weekend and noted the calmness on the bench despite a difficult first half. ‘They weren’t themselves, they were nervous, they were doing uncharacteristic things. It was the worst I’ve seen Chelsea in a long time.
‘But what they’ve got is they can turn it around. They can turn it around and get a grip on it. Hayes made tactical changes and they got back into the game.’
Chelsea will be looking to top goalscorer Sam Kerr to find the net while City will be hoping Lauren Hemp can cause problems for the Blues’ defence.
Guro Reiten has also been in fine form for Chelsea this season and Pernille Harder will also be hoping to make a mark after missing out on a starting place in December’s final.
Caroline Weir, who scored twice for City in March’s League Cup final, could also be key for Taylor’s side.
Sam Kerr has had a great season and was voted the FWA’s Footballer of the Year
‘It’s whether Chelsea can keep Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly quiet,’ Carney says. ‘For City, it’s whether they can stop the transition of Sam Kerr getting in behind. It’s a big pitch and we saw what she could do in the FA Cup final against Arsenal.’
Erin Cuthbert is another key player for Chelsea. The Scottish midfielder has played in a variety of positions and was a big miss when she was forced to sit out the Conti Cup final due to injury.
‘Emma Hayes said on Sunday that she was their best player,’ Carney says. ‘The game before she had to come on at half-time and she made a massive difference. She gives you that bit of grit.’
Carney believes Chelsea will need to keep Lauren Hemp (pictured) and Chloe Kelly quiet
Lauren Hemp v Jess Carter
Hemp managed 10 goals and six assists in the WSL and is one of the most exciting players in the England squad. However, Chelsea’s Jess Carter is one of the best 1v1 defenders in the league and will look to stop the pacey winger in her tracks.
Carney: ‘Hemp is in form at the moment in front of goal and is being prolific. She gives you momentum, she gets the crowd going because she’s exciting. Jess Carter, I’d expect her to go up against her and try to nullify that threat.’
Jess Carter (right) is one of the best 1 v 1 defenders in the Women’s Super League
Sam Kerr v Alex Greenwood
Kerr showed she is a player for the big occasion with her mesmerising display in December’s Cup final against Arsenal and it will be the job of City defender Alex Greenwood to try and keep her quiet this time around.
Greenwood has been a constant in the City back-line in an injury-hit season. The England defender switched from left-back to centre-back mid-way through last season and has reaped the rewards, but she will face a tough task up against one of the world’s best forwards. However, City will be confident given they have nine clean sheets in their last 13 games.
‘In the big games you need that little bit of star quality and boy did we see it with Sam Kerr [last weekend],’ Carney says.
‘If you’re a Manchester City defender, your job is to keep Sam quiet.’
Alex Greenwood will be looking to keep Kerr quiet in the final of the FA Cup on Sunday
Taylor and Hayes have faced off eight times in the last two years with the Chelsea boss winning six of those games. The Conti Cup final was the first time Taylor had beaten Hayes in all competitions.
The former Wales striker won the FA Cup with City in December 2020, which was the delayed final from the 2019-2020 campaign. Hayes has won this competition three times.
Taylor found himself under pressure at the start of the season as City languished near the bottom of the table and the coach took himself off social media amid the criticism.
Emma Hayes has had the better of Gareth Taylor’s side in six of their eight meetings
But his side have not looked back since winning the League Cup. Carney says: ‘I got asked to do some analysis on City earlier in the season and I sat down and thought “they’re actually playing well.”
‘It was just a case of they were playing people in wrong positions because they had 10 players injured.
‘If it had happened to any other team they’d have had the same issues with results. Once the players came back, the results spoke for themselves. If they’d had kept everyone fit and healthy, they would have been in the title race last weekend as well.’
The Conti Cup final was the first time that Taylor had beaten Hayes in all competitions
CARNEY’S VERDICT: Manchester City win
‘Chelsea have got resilience and they’ve got the knowhow so you can never rule them out but, in my head, I would have City as more favourable.
‘On this pitch, I think they’ll retain the ball a bit better. Chelsea will want to win for people who are leaving like Ji [So-Yun], Jonna [Anderson] and Drew [Spence], but I just feel that City have really come into form. They’re high-flying in scoring, everyone is chipping in and they’re not conceding many.
‘My gut just says City. I thought their performance against Chelsea in the League Cup final was outstanding and I think if they can reach those levels it will cause Chelsea some problems.’
Don’t miss out! Watch Chelsea vs Manchester City in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final this Sunday. Visit thefa.com/ticketing , tickets available now.