Continental Cup Final: Preview – Two in a Row?

The Continental Cup Final 2020-21 pits Champions vs Challengers as WSL Leaders and defending tournament winners face plucky underdogs hoping for a giant-killing. Bristol City Women vs Chelsea Women is set to be a showpiece event you can’t afford to miss.

Continental Cup Final: The Background

This year, the Continental Cup final will be held at Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC. The event, will, unfortunately, be behind closed doors due to COVID, once again robbing fans of a chance to make precious memories. However, both the Chelsea Women Supporters Group and Bristol City Women Supporters have tried to bring fans together in a variety of ways ahead of the showpiece event.

The Continental Cup final has been held at different stadiums every year since the tournament’s inauguration in 2011. The FA aim to reinvest and reward the women’s game and clubs by allowing different stadiums to host the final to try to engage new fans.

This year’s Women’s League Cup final will be the first in which neither Arsenal nor Manchester City will be playing. The Continental Tyres Cup final will be Bristol’s first and most important match in a long time, while Chelsea will be aiming to defend their crown after winning last season against London rivals Arsenal.  

Rewind: The 2019/20 Final

With special thanks to Hannah (@cfcwhannah):

“I was secretly confident arriving at the City Ground in Nottingham, despite never winning this competition before and playing a team who had won it 5 times.

I believed in my team. Things started off well with Beth England scoring in the 8th minute and we seemed in control of the game. Arsenal started to build momentum in the second half and Ann-Katrin Berger had to make some quality saves to keep them out.

It wasn’t until I got home and re-watched the game that I realised just how good those saves were. I could feel an equaliser coming and I was just hoping we could hang on until the final whistle, but no, we had to do it the more dramatic way. When Arsenal equalised I still believed we would come back to win, but I was annoyed I’d have to sit out in the freezing cold for 30 minutes!

Thankfully, in the dying minutes, Beth England came to the rescue. Her celebration is now etched into my brain. I’m incredibly happy to say I witnessed Chelsea win our first Continental Cup, and I am still so proud of this team.”

Chelsea – Road to the Conti Cup Final  

Chelsea’s group stage in the Conti Cup saw them pitted against 3 London Rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham and London City Lionesses. Chelsea navigated the North London clubs easy enough, winning both games comfortably. The final matchday against London City Lionesses was never played due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but Chelsea still comfortably topped Group B.

In the Quarter-Finals, Chelsea faced Manchester City in a stunningly entertaining game, worthy of being the final. In a tense contest, the Blues eventually triumphed 4-2 in extra time with amazing goals from Niamh Charles and Sophie Ingle lighting up the match.

Chelsea faced West Ham in the Semi-Final, in which they won 6-0 thanks to a hattrick from Pernille Harder. Chelsea’s outstanding performance against another London rival earned them a place in the Continental Cup final this weekend.

Results:  

  • Arsenal (H) – 07/10/20 – 4-1 (W)
  • Tottenham Hotspur (H) – 03/11/20 – 2-0 (W)
  • Manchester City (A) – 20/01/21 2-4 AET (W)
  • West Ham (H) – 03/02/21 – 6-0 (W)

Bristol – Road to the Conti Cup Final  

In comparison to their league form, where they have suffered, Bristol have had a successful season in this competition. For the majority of the season, the Vixens have been in last place in WSL, but thrived in the cup.

They did win all three of their group games, finishing first in their group. In Bristol’s Quarter-Final win over Aston Villa, two goals were scored by Ebony Salmon, who has been a real threat upfront this season. Their Semi-Final win came against Leicester City, who they beat 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kiera Skeels in the 80th minute, her first goal for the club. That goal from Kiera helped Bristol to reach their first Continental Cup final.

  Results:  

  • London Bees (H)- 07/11/20 – 4-0 (W)
  • Crystal Palace (A) – 05/11/20 – 2-4 (W)
  • Lewes FC (A) – 18/11/20 – 3-1 (W)
  • Aston Villa (H) – 13/01/21 – 2-1 (W)
  • Leicester City (H) – 03/02/21 – 1-0 (W)

A View from the Opposition

With special thanks to D-M Withers (@dmwithers_) of the Bristol City Vixencast:

“Bristol go into Sunday’s Conti-Cup final against Chelsea full of confidence after our scintillating 3-2 win against Reading on Monday night.

It’s fair to say that few believe we can upset the current holders – wbo have already scored 14 goals against us this season with no reply – but in football, anything can happen.

As a Bristol fan, we look forward to the game less with a feeling of dread and foreboding and more with a curiosity about what will unfold. We are a team transformed following Matt Beard’s timely takeover, and we are getting better all the time. Ultimately, we all hope for a competitive, exciting game that enables all the talent on the pitch to shine. Come on you Reds!”

Kiera Skeels goal sends Bristol City into the Continental Cup Final.
Kiera Skeels scores the important Semi-Final goal. Image Credit: Action Images

Chelsea vs Bristol – Head to Head Record

The last time Bristol and Chelsea met was in the WSL just before the international break, when Chelsea stomped Bristol City 5-0 at Twerton Park.

The last time Bristol beat Chelsea was in the WSL in 2013, when the Vixens won 3-1. They have met each other nine times since 2017, with Chelsea winning all nine matches. Chelsea famously beat Bristol 9-0 in September 2020, with nine different goal scorers including a first Chelsea goal for Pernille Harder.

Continental Cup Final Predicted Line-Ups

Chelsea

Chelsea FC Semi-Final Starting XI: Berger (GK); Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson (C), Andersson, Leupolz, Ingle, Ji, Kirby, England, Harder.  

Pernille Harder, Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr have been in stunning recent form.
Chelsea will be relying on their magic 3 attackers to decide this contest. Image Credit: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC via Getty Images.

 On Sunday, we should expect a lineup close to this one. Sam Kerr will likely come in for Beth England who misses the match through a concussion. Both Harder and Kirby took knocks on Wednesday but should be okay to start.

If they do need to look to the bench for changes, Chelsea have greater options. The likes of Jessie Fleming, Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten will all be waiting in the wings if Emma Hayes needs them to change the outcome of the Continental Cup Final.

Bristol City

Bristol City FC Semi-Final Starting XI: Baggaley (GK), Evans, Matthews, (C), Humphrey, Salmon, Daniels, Wellings, Allen, Palmer, Purfield, Skeels.  

Bristol do not have the same depth of squad as Chelsea. Chelsea have used all five substitutes allowed in their Conti Cup matches, while Bristol have only used two or three, depending on injuries.

Bristol will be at a disadvantage because Chelsea have players on the bench who can turn a game around and scare opponents. Bristol City worked hard early in the week to beat Reading and climb out of the bottom spot which will give them confidence. The Vixens will not roll over and will put up a fight, but they will need a stunning performance to win the silverware.

How can you watch Bristol City Women vs Chelsea Women?  

This game will be shown live on BT Sport 2 from 14:00 and the FA Player for those based outside the UK. Kick-off time: 14:30 GMT. 

Continental Cup Final: Last Thoughts

A game that Chelsea will hope will kickstart the beginning of a legendary season. It is not inconceivable Emma Hayes could end the year with a Treble, or even a Quadruple and the Continental Cup Final is the first step to this glory.

The loss of Beth England, hero of last year’s final is a big blow, but Chelsea have the firepower required to beat Bristol and the options in the squad to change things if necessary. As for the Vixens, they’ll hope that the footballing Gods shine on them and allow David to once more slay Goliath for a first Continental Cup Final Triumph.

COME ON YOU BLUES!

Written by Meg Aherne (@meggaherne)

Edited by Rob Pratley

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