Chelsea manager Emma Hayes expects hosts Manchester City to be at a better level on Sunday compared to the most recent meeting between the Women’s Super League teams.
The two heavyweights clash again only two weeks after they faced each other in the 2020-21 FA Cup semi-final, which is being completed during the first half of the current campaign.
Hayes’ side ran out 3-0 winners on the road but have never triumphed at the Academy Stadium in the WSL and also played in the Champions League in midweek while Gareth Taylor has been able to enjoy a full week of preparation before facing the title holders.
“It’s a great record for them, not for us and something to address for us,” the Chelsea boss reflected on her team’s failure to win a league match at City.
“I think they will be at a better level because they have had a week of prep and they will have players who have returned from injury so they will have more depth and I think it will be a completely different game.”
City remain without several key personnel like Ellie Roebuck (calf), Steph Houghton (Achilles) and Lucy Bronze (knee) but have recovered from a poor start to the season to win three of their last four games in all competitions.
Hayes added: “I see an upturn in their performances, I really do. (Georgia) Stanway coming back into the fold, she is an important player for them and they do have a lot of international players. I don’t think people realise that.
“They are maybe missing internationals but they have a team of internationals, so they are a top team and we won’t underestimate that.”
City are down in seventh due to losing three times in the opening weeks of the term but manager Taylor is aware of how important the fixture at Academy Stadium could be.
He told the official club website: “Winning on Sunday drags us closer to Chelsea – it’d be five points, which isn’t a huge amount at this point. It’d be a big shift for us.
“It’d be a real statement – not revenge but an opportunity. Our challenge is to keep the players grounded, humble and believing in what we do.”
The fixture between last season’s top two is one of five taking place on Sunday which will brings Women’s Football Weekend to its conclusion.
Surprise package Brighton will aim to continue their strong start to the season by getting the better of basement club Leicester at home.
Hope Powell’s side are fourth and will take on a side who have yet to get off the mark since promotion.
Elsewhere, Birmingham, who also remain without a win, host Aston Villa in a West Midlands derby where Villa boss Carla Ward will return to her old club while West Ham entertain Reading with the visitors eyeing a third straight win in the division.
New Everton boss Jean-Luc Vasseur will hope for a maiden WSL win when Manchester United visit Walton Hall Park but Marc Skinner’s team are unbeaten in four games.