Everton Women will be looking to carry on recent good form when they take on second-place Manchester United in their WSL clash at Walton Hall Park this Sunday.
The Blues go into the fixture against Marc Skinner’s side on the back of two victories over Aston Villa, the latest being a midweek Continental Cup shootout victory against the Midlands side.
Victory over the Red Devils would put the Toffees level on points with their East Lancs rivals, as well as end United’s undefeated WSL streak.
Brian Sorensen rang the changes for the visit of Villa, although Courtney Brosnan is almost certain to regain her place between the sticks, as Emily Ramsey is ineligible to play against her parent club. Had that not been the case, the Blues boss would have faced a tough decision, given the outstanding performance of the Salford-born stopper against the Villans.
Gabby George may well return to her wing-back role. The England international has delivered some excellent performances in that position, and Sorensen may feel that the counterattack could well be the most effective form of offence against a team that will be expecting to enjoy the majority of possession.
Nathalie Bjorn should also be restored to the starting XI. The Swede came off the bench to score the decisive spot-kick against Carla Ward’s side and has been a solid fixture this season, producing a player-of-the-match performance Everton’s league victory, and clean sheet, over Villa.
Aggie Beever-Jones and Jess Park did their arguments for a start no harm during midweek, the former notched her first goal for Everton to level proceedings, while Park’s impact as a substitute turned the game in the Blues’ favour. The teen will also have added incentive in ending the unbeaten run of Sunday’s visitors, being a Manchester City loanee.
Marc Skinner’s side head into Sunday’s fixture in sparkling league form, having claimed four wins from four as well as a quartet of clean sheets.
Curiously, the Red Devils have suffered two defeats in two in the Continental Cup so far, both reverses coming in shootout losses against Aston Villa and Durham.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps has kept 46 WSL clean sheets to date, three more than any other goalkeeper. The stopper is also well protected by former Blue, Millie Turner. The veteran’s leadership has been instrumental in United backline being one of the meanest in the WSL.
But it is the attacking threat that the Blues will have to be most concerned with. A forward line that shares the goals and also includes another former Blue in Nikita Parris, who will be keen to add to her WSL tally against her former employers.
It has been a fixture largely dominated by United in previous encounters. The Red Devils narrowly bested the Blues in a pre-season friendly and ran out 3-1 winners the last time the two sides met competitively. Claire Emslie’s stunning effort was cancelled out by an Alessia Russo double and a Katie Zelem penalty.
But Sorensen’s side is looking to the future rather than the past and will be keen to show that they can hang with the WSL’s big hitters. And a positive in this fixture will be the perfect vindication of those beliefs.