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Continental Cup final preview

It’s taken nine long years but finally Chelsea are in the Conti Cup final, the one piece of domestic silverware that has long eluded Emma Hayes is finally within reach, unfortunately for the Blues, they’ll have to beat the most successful team in the history of the league cup to finally lift it.

Divergent histories

Whilst Chelsea’s early history in WSL isn’t the most glamorous of tales with the club not hitting their [now] established highs until the 2014 season, it was also the first time the Blues got beyond the first or group round of the league cup. A loss to Manchester City followed and it wouldn’t be until 2018 until the team on course to win the title reached the last four of the Conti Cup again. And again, it was a home defeat at the hands of City for the Blues with the same result playing out 12 months later – the score the only difference.

This season, Chelsea managed to avoid the Citizens (who again drove down to London for their semi-final clash, only to lose to Arsenal) and prospered in Leigh thanks to Maren Mjelde’s lone goal.

Conversely, Arsenal’s history in the competition is a glowing one, winning the first three editions before suffering their first final loss against City, but a return to the final the next year saw the trophy return to Borehamwood. 2016 marked the first year that the Gunners failed to reach the final after losing the semi-final to, who else, Manchester City with a replay of the fixture in the 2018 final going the other way to give Arsenal their fifth Conti Cup victory. The 2019 final was, for the third time, City vs Arsenal (the only two teams to have every won the cup) and for the first time, was decided on penalties after 120 scoreless minutes.

Blues on top

Coming into the final this year, there are similarities between this and last year’s finals for Arsenal and although their injury list isn’t quite as long, who isn’t available will undoubtedly have a say in how the match unfolds. Chelsea, on the other hand, have all the depth required to last a full season of midweek commitments and multiple cup runs, the team can also boast some of the best current form in the league too.

Having only met in a cup final twice before when they contested the 2016 and 2018 FA Cups, the London teams can boast one win each with Arsenal winning the title back from Chelsea in their first meeting before being thoroughly outclassed by the Blues in 2018.

In the league, Chelsea’s superiority has rung true more often than not in recent times – Arsenal’s breath-taking 5-0 defeat of the hosts at Kingsmeadow the outlier. The Blues’ crushing performance at Meadow Park last month speaks to the current balance of power between the two, the match punctuated (not just but outstanding goals) by Chelsea’s wealth across the pitch. Boasting in-form striker Beth England and midfield magicians, Sophie Ingle and Guro Reiten, Chelsea were unplayable and devastatingly clinical in Borehamwood as Arsenal fell to pieces.

There is no question, Arsenal snookered themselves against Chelsea last time out but overall, it seems very much like Emma Hayes has Joe Montemurro’s number. Arsenal’s injury-hit midfield (the Gunners without Lia Wälti and Kim Little) will certainly lead to the Gunners conceding the majority of possession, the untested strike-partnership of Vivianne Miedema and Caitlin Foord one that may come good in time but a final is no time for them to get introduced to one another. With Beth Mead also out for a considerable chunk of time and Jennifer Beattie lacking match fitness only just having returned from injury, the Blues will feel good about finally lifting the league cup.

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