Nikita Parris relishing ‘massive opportunity’ to showcase women’s football

Manchester United forward Nikita Parris hopes the Women’s Super League can take another big step forward this weekend as it basks in the spotlight left by the Premier League’s World Cup hiatus.

United will face Parris’ former club Arsenal, the league leaders, in front of an expected crowd of at least 35,000 at the Emirates Stadium as top meets third place.

That clash is one of three WSL fixtures moved to Premier League grounds this weekend with second-paced Chelsea playing Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and Villa Park hosting Aston Villa against Reading on Sunday.

It is another opportunity for the league to build on the momentum left by England’s success at Euro 2022 and get the game in front of new fans – with the Arsenal match also being broadcast in a prime time slot.

“I can’t wait,” Parris said on the United website. “I think everyone is excited about the big games where you can test yourself and see where you are as a team…

“It’s a massive opportunity not just to showcase who Manchester United are but what women’s football can produce.”

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall said he wanted his players to think of the Emirates as being as much their home as Meadow Park.

“I think it’s one of our two homes,” he said. “And from the time I’ve been here, we feel more and more that this is our home. We feel more and more that it’s on a platform, where we’re able to share our love for Arsenal with so many more people than just ourselves in the team.”

Eidevall said Beth Mead, Manuela Zinsberger, Jordan Nobbs, Lotte Wubben-Moy would all be available after picking up knocks during the international window, but Lina Hurtig will be out.

United head south having suffered their first league defeat of the season last weekend, a 3-1 loss to Chelsea, to lose pace with Arsenal at the top of the table.

“It’s a very tough opponent,” added Eidevall, whose side have won all six of their WSL matches this season. “Manchester United have had a great start to the season. I’m so pleased that we can, again, sell such a high number of tickets when we go to Emirates and have these high standards.

“It was a beautiful experience at the north London derby and, together with our fans, we want to try and create the same thing tomorrow.”

Chelsea v Manchester City – Barclays Women’s Super League – Kingsmeadow Stadium
Lauren Hemp is an injury doubt for Manchester City after pulling out of England duty (Tim Goode/PA)

With one or both of Arsenal and United guaranteed to drop points, Manchester City will see this weekend as an opportunity to move closer to the top three after putting a slow start to the season behind them.

However, Gareth Taylor said he did not yet know whether Lauren Hemp, who pulled out of the England squad through injury, would be available.

“We will find out a little bit more over the next 24 hours if she’ll be available or not,” Taylor said.

“We took the precaution over the last few days to keep her out of the training practices.”

Everton sit seventh in the table after their last match before the international break, due to be against Tottenham, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

Brian Sorensen will be without the on loan Jess Park – who scored 79 seconds into her England debut last week – as she cannot face her parent club, but Norwegian defender Elise Stenevik said they could still upset City.

“We have the potential to beat them the same way we have the potential to beat a lot of teams in this league,” she said.

“It’s fun to play teams like Manchester City because it is a good test for us to show how good we are. If we can compete with them it is a big confidence boost to show we can be up there and fight.”