Chelsea v Bristol
The only tie between FA WSL 1 sides. On last season’s form, it should be an easy win for Bristol. Following the arrival of a new manager and a couple of players, the Bristol team has stayed stable and should be ready. They have tweaked a little bit their football style with regards to what Mark Sampson was favouring last season. Chelsea made a wholesale of changes and added quality players in order to have to have a strong English backbone. I think home win in a very tight game.
Man City v Reading*
1st competitive game for the new Man City team. It will be interesting to see if the full time players have already gelled with the rest of the squad that finished 4th in the National Division last season. All their international players will lead by example and offer quality. Reading are one of the favourites for “the right to ask for promotion” in Division 2. They have also played a couple of competitive games as well, so should be a little sharper than City. Another tight game and I can see a possible upset there. Away win.
Sunderland* v Liverpool
Another game between a FA WSL 2 and FA WSL 1 team. Tough game for the champions, I expect their fitness to prevail in the end, but Sunderland can definitely create an upset. Again 1st competitive game for the WSL 1 side makes it difficult to know where those teams stand. Liverpool have had an excellent pre-season, so should be ready Away win
Birmingham City v Doncaster Rovers Belles*
Doncaster have changed their manager following their relegation from Division 1 and coach Staniforth has made them a very solid and organised unit. Birmingham are riding high following their Champions League excellent games v Arsenal and should overcome the Belles. Home win.
Notts County v Coventry City**
Although there are 2 divisions difference between those two teams, Notts County will face a strong team that managed to keep their players during the winter transfer window. Lincoln had a strong defensive unit last season, upgraded their goalkeeper Telford for Bardsley and brought many quality foreigners. It should be another tight game but the WSL 1 players quality should win that game. Home win
Arsenal v Gillingham**
Following the Champions League debacle against Birmingham and due to the international break, we don’t know how Arsenal managed to regroup from that poor European effort. The Gunners should win the tie but cant be complacent even if there are 2 divisions separating the teams. Gills have 3 players who played at the Arsenal Academy. You do wonder if Gills will be tired after playing the Kent Cup final on Thursday the 10th. Home win
Cardiff City** v Everton
Tough tie for a young Everton side for their first competitive game this season. They will need strong leadership from Hinnigan and Parris taking over the responsbility from Scott and Duggan to go through. Cardiff have a strong Welsh international base, so an upset might be on the card. Home win
Portsmouth** v Durham*
Porstmouth are riding high in the Southern division and will test strongly the WSL 2 side that passed the test with flying colors in the previous round. Away win but very tight game.
*denotes WSL 2 team
** denotes Southern Division team (3rd level in the “pyramid”)
As usual my predictions are likely to be wrong, all you need is a dodgy goal/penalty/red card to change a tie and it could happen as usual. In any tight knock-out games any decision by a referee is magnified and has heavy consequences as seen in previous seasons.