Women’s League Cup: Arsenal and Chelsea know final win can be springboard for further success
On Sunday afternoon, either Kim Little or Magda Eriksson will get their hands on silverware at Selhurst Park.
Arsenal play Chelsea in the Continental League Cup Final and both captains are confident their team will claim the first major trophy of the season. Only one can be right.
The two sides are battling with both Manchester clubs at the top of the WSL and hope a win — in front of an expected crowd of more than 20,000 — will be a springboard for more honours this season.
As well as competing for the title, Arsenal and Chelsea both have Champions League quarter-finals on the horizon and know victory would give them a lift for the run-in.
Chelsea knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup last weekend and are unbeaten in their last five meetings against them, so will feel they may have the upper hand.
The Blues have reached four successive Women’s League Cup finals, beaten by Manchester City a year ago. They are one point behind WSL leaders Manchester United, and Emma Hayes has built her squad to thrive at the business end of the season. They have won the title for the past three years and Hayes says winning is in their DNA.
Arsenal are the most successful team in the history of this competition, having won it five times. But in recent weeks the Gunners have fallen six points off top spot after three draws in their last four WSL fixtures.
“Both clubs have been a huge part of the women’s game over a number of years,” says Arsenal captain Little. “Both teams are very aware of each other’s threats. Since the New Year we’ve not produced the results we wanted to, so we’ve made it harder for ourselves.
“Chelsea have been the dominant club over the past years. That’s evident from the titles and trophies they’ve won. Our aim is to get back to that place.”
Chelsea captain Eriksson says: “On the day of a final it’s up for anyone, but experience matters. We have big experience of these games. That will matter. We’ve had a solid season. We started in the worst possible way, losing to Liverpool. That was a wake-up call for us. Since then we’ve been really switched on. Lauren James and Sam Kerr are our biggest threats and are performing extremely well.
“Now, in what Emma likes to call ‘the business end’ of the season, it’s about sustaining it until June. Emma has that relentless drive for winning, creating a winning mentality within the group. Winning is all that matters to us, and she is not afraid of saying that. We are the team who thrive off pressure.”
The Gunners are without star strikers Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema as they continue to recover from knee injuries.
“They have world-class players in every position,” Eriksson says. “They have a Swede I know really well in attack: Stina [Blackstenius]. If you relax for one second, she’ll get in on goal.
“Caitlin Foord, their Australian player, has had an amazing season and is a constant threat whenever we play her.”
Little says: “Of course we miss Viv and Beth, but injuries happen throughout a season, and as a club we have to work with all we have. We’ve got a very capable squad.”
Eriksson predicts a good battle. “It’s a final. It’s going to be a tough game, a tactical game,” she says.
Little says with a smile: “I can’t wait. It’s two of the best teams in the country. It’s going to be a high-level match. It’s a trophy — that in itself provides motivation. We are excited to play in the game and hopefully lift another trophy.”