As the weather finally appears to be easing on the early season fixtures, Blues Ladies will hopefully begin a run of tough fixtures, commencing with our re-arranged FA Women’s Cup Quarter Final tie, away to Arsenal Ladies, on Tuesday 9th April, with our opening league fixture being away to Chelsea the following Sunday. Although the weather cannot have helped the girls’ preparation, at least we are in a situation where we know what the requirements are to achieve glory in the FA Cup for a second successive season. Should we achieve the near impossible feat of overcoming Arsenal on their home turf, Liverpool Ladies await in the Semi-Final, with the Merseyside team having home advantage, so the road to the final will certainly be the hardest possible route. The full Semi-Final draw is as follows:
Bristol Academy or Everton v Lincoln
Liverpool v Arsenal or Birmingham
These games will take place on Sunday 28th April, with the Final of this year’s competition being held at Doncaster Rovers’ home ground The Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday 26thMay.
Five to Watch
With the third season of the FAWSL upon us, here are five players to keep an eye out for this season:
1 - Jordan Nobbs – Arsenal Ladies
Nobbs has been involved with the Arsenal Ladies squad since 2010, joining from Sunderland. Despite her young age, she has progressed through the England youth system all the way to the seniors, making her mark in this year’s Cyprus Cup, in which she shone for Hope Powell’s team. Nobbs is a very skillful, hardworking player, and is very similar to her likely central midfield team mate Kim Little, with plenty of creativity and goals. She has not held down a regular starting position for the Gunners in the past two seasons, but with the Katie Chapman missing for the majority of the season due to her pregnancy, Nobbs will more than likely start more often, and no doubt she has the potential to take Arsenal to another level.
2 - Natalia – Bristol Academy
27 year old Spanish striker Natalia has joined Bristol Academy this season, joining from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano, and will link up with her international colleague Laura Del Rio, who impressed last season. Natalia has scored over 300 goals for her former club side, at a rate of over a goal a game, and her partnership with Del Rio could well see Bristol be a major force this season. Boss Mark Sampson has likened his new signing to Swansea superstar Michu, relating to her work ethic and style, and Bristol will be hoping she has a similar impact.
3 - Karen Bardsley – Lincoln Ladies
Lincoln Ladies made the audacious move to sign England goalkeeper Bardsley in the close season, and she will bring a great solidity to the Lincoln defence this season, especially playing behind her England team mates Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley. Bardsley joined Lincoln from Swedish side Linköpings FC this close season, and the 24-cap stopper will add to Lincoln’s reputation as a team that is hard to beat.
4 - Louise Fors – Liverpool Ladies
Swedish attacking midfielder Fors was one of the many international stars to join Liverpool Ladies this winter, but she has already settled in well at her new club, scoring against Villa on her debut, as well as grabbing the goal in the recent derby against Everton. Like Bardsley, she joined from Linköpings, and she will be hoping to continue her form in the coming months.
5 - Kirsty Linnett - Birmingham City Ladies
Youngster Linnett signed for Blues from Arsenal Ladies in the close season after spending the majority of the last year out injured, but the attacking winger has proved in her short time in football that she has plenty of ability, and will be desperate to get her career back on track at Blues. Having represented England at every youth level, as well as captaining the side, Linnett has devastating potential, and if Blues are to make a step up alongside the other WSL teams this season, Linnett may well be pivotal in helping them achieve success.