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Chelsea Ladies v Sunderland AFC Ladies - WSL

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Lasses Preview: David versus Goliath — Can Sunderland overcome the odds and beat Chelsea?

Sunderland Women head south tonight to take on what seems to be an impossible task in defeating the best team in the land, Chelsea, on their own patch. Is a cup upset on the cards?

Photo by Chelsea Football Club/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Wednesday 7th February 2024

Chelsea FC Women v Sunderland AFC Women

Continental Tyres Cup

Kingsmeadow, 422A Jack Goodchild Way, Kingston Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 3PB

Kick-Off: 19:00pm


Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Adults between £8-£15 depending on seating, between £4 and £7.50 for over 65’s, and under 20’s. Tickets available to buy here: Event Information Screen - eTickets (eticketing.co.uk)

Coverage: Updates will be provided on Twitter via @SAFCWomen, and we will be sharing photos, videos and comments on the game via our @HawayPod Twitter account.

Highlights: The FA Player will have highlights and a full match replay from Thursday afternoon.


The Lasses

Despite securing two consecutive league victories in January, the Sunderland Women’s team began their February on a disappointing note with a 1-0 loss away to Reading over the weekend.

While the result was challenging to accept, it didn’t accurately mirror the team’s performance. Sunderland found themselves reduced to ten players early in the match when Louise Griffiths received a straight red card in the 35th minute, forcing the lasses to navigate their numerical disadvantage for two-thirds of the game.

However, they didn’t succumb to the pressure and refrained from adopting a defensive strategy to secure a draw. Interestingly, up until the dismissal, Reading appeared more threatening. Yet, after the card, Sunderland seemed to elevate their game, becoming the side more likely to score.

As is often the case in football, outcomes are determined by exceedingly fine margins. Despite the lasses displaying danger and attacking intensity, Reading managed to capitalize on their one shot on goal in the second half, securing the victory.

Undoubtedly, this defeat will be a significant setback for the coaching staff and players, especially in the context of the closely contested title race. Fortunately, results elsewhere worked in Sunderland’s favour, preventing severe repercussions for the loss against Reading. While one could view it as dropping crucial points, I refrain from adopting a critical or negative stance. Having attended the match on Sunday, I departed the Madjeski Stadium feeling proud of the team’s efforts and performance.

A single game will not diminish the admiration and joy that Sunderland Women have brought not only to me but to the entire fanbase throughout this season.

Reading v Sunderland - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Ben Hoskins - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Sunderland would have had a two-week break from fixtures following their 7-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Conti Cup two weeks ago. Yet, as previously mentioned, football is a fickle and strange old sport, and the lasses were awarded three points for their game due to Villa fielding an ineligible player. This meant the lasses went through in top spot and secured a quarterfinal fixture against none other than Chelsea Women.

The team only found out last Monday about the outcome of Villa’s transgression and the impact it had on the competition, as well as learning about their quarterfinal opponents. This left the coaching staff and players with little time to prepare for this fixture.

Katie Kitching is away on international duty for New Zealand as they aim to secure a place at next year’s Olympics. Meanwhile, 17-year-old wonderkid Emily Cassap is with England U17’s. Although many of us thought that Louise Griffiths would still be available for this game due to receiving a red card in league competition and not the cup, rules apparently dictate that red cards carry across all competitions. This means the lasses’ left-back will be unavailable for three games due to suspension.

It is genuinely challenging to predict the squad that Mel Reay and her staff will field tonight. In this competition, the lasses have chosen to field an experimental team with young players and those with limited minutes getting the nod to start. However, given the opponent and the ten-day break from fixtures, the gaffer may well opt for her strongest eleven and seek an unprecedented win over the two-time cup champions to progress in the competition.

Regardless of the result, it will be a match that can only provide invaluable experience and learning opportunities for the players.


The Opposition

Well, what can you say about an opposition like this? It isn’t all too often that Sunderland come up against a side of this calibre. I mean, Chelsea is arguably one of the best women’s football teams in the world, up there with the likes of Barcelona, Lyon, Wolfsburg, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich.

Not only is it a star-studded team with a plethora of players who have hundreds of caps for their respective international sides and have won numerous titles in their career, but the Blues also have arguably one of the best women’s football managers in Emma Hayes. Someone who will want to gain as much possible silverware as she can in what is her final season with Chelsea before she joins the US Women’s National Team as manager.

It is certainly a tough ask for this championship Sunderland side that is not in a full-time model yet.

You only need to look at Chelsea’s Wikipedia page to see just how ruthless and incredible this team is, boasting over 27 trophies across various leagues and competitions.

However, we may well see a ‘weaker’—if you can even say that—team against Sunderland tonight, given the fact they are in FA Cup action against Crystal Palace at the weekend, followed by a huge game against Manchester City in the league. The Blues currently sit 1st in the Women’s Super League, three points in front of the chasing Cityzens, who are in fine form.

Not to mention upcoming fixtures in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Chelsea is involved in four different competitions, and while they have an incredible squad and depth, it will be interesting to see exactly who plays against the lasses.

Sunderland—like the men’s team—seem to enjoy being the underdogs and rise to the occasion. They have shocked and surprised many this season, myself included, with their fine form and have been towards the top of the table almost every single matchweek since the season started.

If there is ever a time to take part in a ‘giant-killing’, it is certainly tonight.

WSL 1: Sunderland AFC Ladies v Chelsea Ladies FC Photo by Ian Horrocks - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Head to Head

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Sunderland wins: 1

Draws: 0

Chelsea wins: 7

Sunderland goals: 7

Chelsea goals: 31


Recent League Form

Sunderland: LWWLD

Chelsea: WWWWL


Last Time Out

Saturday 12th May 2018 - Chelsea FC Women 2-1 Sunderland AFC Women

42’ Fran Kirby

56’ Eni Aluko

86’ Kiera Ramshaw


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