Arsenal start their Continental Cup campaign with an away game at Championship side London City Lionesses and will be hoping to go one better than last year when they lost to Manchester City in the final.
Arsenal have been drawn with London City Lionesses, London Bees, Charlton and Brighton and should qualify for the knock-out stages.
The first game is a potential banana skin, however, as we have to remember the Lionesses (under the Millwall name) took the lead in the corresponding game last season before Arsenal turned the screw.
Nowadays, the newly formed team has turned into a fully professional side that even includes medical care unlike many other Championship sides. They are currently sitting in third place in the league, three points behind leaders Aston Villa.
The Lionesses have retained their manager, Chris Phillips, who used to be our Development Team manager.
It is interesting to note that 11 out of their 23 players are former Arsenal youth players: Thomas, Short, Priest, Ayisi, Ravenscroft, Clarke, Neville, Sampson, Agg, Fyfe and Gaylor.
They have also kept the core of the side that played under the Millwall name and added FA WSL experience in Short, Kemppi, Mason and Gaylor.
The Lionesses have also signed an Albanian international Ejupi from Charlton under curious circumstances the same way Spurs signed Graham from Charlton.
So, I would expect them to have improved from last season’s game.
With the games coming thick and fast with Fiorentina the following Thursday and Brighton next Sunday, Arsenal will likely rotate for this game. They should give game time to the back-up players who have not started a game yet, as well as the three 18-year-olds who are good enough to play against a Championship side.
I certainly expect Peyraud-Magnin, Quinn, Mitchell, Schnaderbeck, Flores, Grant, and Filis to start against the Lionesses and to play 90 minutes, while a couple of players who looked tired on Monday against United should hopefully get a rest.
Therefore, I think the following team will start (3-5-2) on Sunday:
Peyraud-Magnin; Schnaderbeck, Quinn, Mitchell; Maier,Flores, Grant, Filis, McCabe; Nobbs or Little, Miedema or Van De Donk.
There is no doubt that managing the players’ fitness is key at the moment, as we are a little bit short once again.
Luckily, the Champions League tie is more or less safe, so Thursday’s game should also allow some players to rest before a key league game against a very much improved Brighton side that will bring a good challenge to Borehamwood a week on Sunday.