Everton and Birmingham City will both be looking for their opening wins of the season. Everton have had a horror start to the season, with consecutive 4-0 losses for Everton, against Chelsea and Man City respectively, and are currently sat at the bottom of the table. Birmingham lost 5-0 to a Brighton team which they were attempting to compete with this season, and also narrowly to Spurs on the opening weekend. The pair last met in a WSL match in March where Everton won 4-0. But with almost half of the Everton squad gone, will Willie Kirk be able to navigate a win?
After 4-0 losses for the Toffees against Chelsea and Man City, many WSL fans think that the Champions League dream may be over. With Everton attempting to break up the synonymous big three (Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal) and as a result qualify for the Champions League, some big results were needed to hit the classic 2 points per game (over 43 points in a 22 game season). But with Everton seeming to still be a world away from the big three, a perfect season is needed (not even an exaggeration, they can only drop possibly around five points in all other matches if they lose to the big three home and away) and that means winning fixtures like this. Despite an embarrassing start to the season, Willie Kirk is still positive that his team can make it.
Birmingham City have had a tricky start to the season, conceding 6 in their opening couple of matches and are sitting 10th in the table. A historic WSL club, Birmingham have struggled in recent seasons and have picked up 21 points out of a possible 105. Despite finishing as runners up in the WSL’s opening season, which resulted in qualification for the Champions League, as well as a silver medal in the League Cup, and on top of that, winning the FA Cup the year after, Birmingham have declined in the following years and are now facing the threat of relegation to the Championship. With the team finishing 11th twice (and only being saved due to truly abysmal seasons from Liverpool and Bristol City respectively), it seems that Birmingham City’s affiliation with the men’s side in 2016 hasn’t helped the team and has clearly hindered it.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Walton Hall Park
Date: Saturday, 25th of September 2021.
Time: Kick-off at 11:30 BST.
Referee: Thomas Reeves.
Assistant Referees: Abby Dearden and Melissa Burgin.
Fourth Official: Lucy May.
Everton manager Willie Kirk will again be without midfielder Lucy Graham and forward Simone Magill through injury, although Leonie Maier will make the matchday squad and could be in line for her debut.
Birmingham City defender Arabella Suttie will not be seen again this season after damaging her anterior cruciate ligament in training while Christie Murray continues her rehabilitation following a foot fracture. Blues boss Scott Booth has confirmed that a couple of players are also carrying knocks but there are no major additions to the treatment room.
Can Everton start playing football?
Both Everton and Birmingham are yet to score a single goal in the WSL and have conceded 14 goals between them. With Everton being a stronger team, the question isn’t if Everton has the quality, but rather when the quality will turn up. With Birmingham being favourites for the drop, Everton should be comfortably beating them and without having to turn up the heat.
Willie Kirk has been put under some pressure by Everton fans after losing to teams with which they were supposed to be competing with, namely UWCL regulars Chelsea and Manchester City. A loss would be catastrophic for the project’s reputation, but a win would put Everton back on the Champions League track.
Birmingham City will attempt to set up a defensive block and try to secure at least 1 point from the match by sharing points with the Toffees. With a weak squad, and a manager who jumped ship, Birmingham’s goal is generally survival, and even such expectations seem far-fetched at this point.
Everton’s new signing Toni Duggan hasn’t had the best start to settling back into the WSL, with the striker not having many chances handed to her, and only came off the bench in the match against Chelsea. The 30-year-old has previously played in the WSL for Everton and Manchester City and should have some experience scoring goals against bottom-half teams. Functioning as either a winger or a forward, Duggan has played in the English top flight of women’s football for around 10 years, which is even crazier when you remember that she had a 4-year stint in Spain, and when asked to speak about the time away from England, she said, “I’d achieved so much in England and I’d played in the top league for over ten years and I just felt like I was ready for a new, fresh challenge”. She may have completed the WSL in 2017, but with the WSL getting better and better every season, can she conquer it again?
Despite being the captain of a sinking ship, Louise Quinn is still my key player for Saturday’s matchup and Birmingham’s key player. An experienced defender, who previously played for the likes of Arsenal, Notts County, and Fiorentina. Quinn joined the Blues from Fiorentina this summer, and due to many sales in recent seasons, gained the captaincy fairly quickly. The 31-year-old spent over 3 years at Meadow Park before moving on in 2020. With her first taste of the beautiful game at an adult level coming all the way back in 2004 as a teenager, Louise Quinn is certainly an experienced head and will need to be a commanding figure in the box if Birmingham have any chance of winning.
Everton: MacIver, Turner, George, Bjorn, Maier, Galli, Christiansen, Bennison, Emslie, Gauvin, Duggan.
Everton 2-0 Birmingham City