Friday is the day of reckoning for Manchester United Women as they visit the Bescot Stadium to take on Aston Villa Women in a high-stakes Women’s Super League fixture.
Since a 5-0 rout of Leicester City in late March at this venue, Villa’s form has spiralled, as they’ve gone winless in three straight matches (D1, L2), conceding precisely three goals twice in that run.
Carla Ward’s ladies shared the spoils with Tottenham Hotspur in a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw last time out, effectively relinquishing their hopes of making a late top-four push.
Despite going 2-0 up inside the opening 21 minutes, they were lucky to walk away with a point as Spurs turned the game on its head before the hour-mark.
After title rivals Chelsea took advantage of Villa’s drop-off to knock them out of the Women’s FA Cup semi-finals a fortnight ago, it’s United’s turn to exploit this opportunity to strengthen their title bid.
Marc Skinner’s ladies have gone into overdrive since a 1-0 loss away to Chelsea in early March, racking up a five-match winning streak in all competitions to set themselves up nicely for this trip.
Alessia Russo scored on the stroke of half-time to hand the Red Devils a morale-boosting 1-0 home triumph over top-three hopefuls Arsenal last week, maintaining their three-point lead at the WSL summit.
But there’s no time for celebration, as third-placed Chelsea lag only four points behind with two games in hand, highlighting the significance of every game down the final stretch.
Following an impressive four-game winning league streak between February and late March, Villa have gone winless in the last two rounds (D1, L1), conceding three goals apiece.
What’s even more concerning for head coach Ward, her side have lost their last two competitive outings on home turf without scoring, conceding inside the first 15 minutes of the second half both times.
The recent lack of the cutting edge could shred Villa’s bid to make a home breakthrough against Man Utd in the WSL to pieces after drawing a blank in their two previous top-flight encounters in Birmingham (D1, L1).
It gets worse. As recently as five years ago, the Red Devils tore Villans apart in their backyard, pulling off a blockbuster 12-0 triumph as part of their triumphant 2018 Women’s Championship campaign.
While it’s unlikely that United can recreate that overwhelming success, the visitors are in perfect shape to complete a top-flight double over Villa following a thumping 5-0 victory in the reverse fixture in December.
Except for the aforementioned defeat at Chelsea in mid-March, Skinner’s ladies have won all five remaining away matches in 2023, including the last two via multi-goal margins.
But ending Chelsea’s three-year reign is still a formidable challenge, considering the Blues are not prone to dropping points, so living up to their tag as pre-match favourites is a must for United.
Skinner can breathe a sigh of relief knowing his team have conceded a league joint-low five goals on hostile turf this season while netting a third-high 17.
Aston Villa vs Manchester United Potential Line-ups
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Hannah Hampton; Sarah Mayling, Anna Patten, Danielle Turner, Mayumi Pacheco; Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Staniforth, Kenza Dali; Kirsty Hanson, Alisha Lehmann, Rachel Daly.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Mary Earps; Ona Battle, Maya Le Tissier, Millie Turner, Hannah Blundell; Hayley Ladd, Katie Zelem; Lucia Garcia, Ella Toone, Leah Galton; Alessia Russo.
We Say: Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester United
Anything other than three points would be a disaster for Man Utd’s title ambitions, but Skinner’s ladies are not in a forgiving mood these days as we anticipate a routine win for the away side.
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