Women’s football will return to competitive action for the first time in 181 days as Chelsea take on Manchester City in the Community Shield on Saturday.
The FA announced earlier this month that the women’s competition would return after a 12-year absence as part of a double header with the men’s fixture at Wembley.
City will be led by new boss Gareth Taylor who was appointed during lockdown while Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is entering her ninth season with Blues.
Taylor, who won back-to-back promotions with City between 1998 and 2000, admitted he is thrilled to have the possibility of winning a trophy in his first game in charge.
‘It’s great for the girls to have this opportunity and for the women’s game to be like a main event and to be televised as well is great,’ he said.
‘I was so excited when I heard about this game. Particularly starting a new job, one of your first games is gonna be at Wembley stadium. I was fortunate enough to be there as a player but to lead a team out is really special.’
City are expected to challenge for the WSL title next season after bringing in a raft of new signings including American World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, with the latter in line to make her debut at Wembley.
‘This weekend’s game sits as a nice opportunity to start off on the front foot,’ Taylor added.
‘We want to try and compete on all fronts and I think to do that we need to have a really strong squad. Particularly when you have two FA Cup competitions in one season. Sam is currently just training with the squad and made a small appearance at the weekend in the training match, but hopefully all being well (she’ll play a part).’
You have to go back to April 2019 for the last time Chelsea lost a competitive fixture and Hayes is relishing the chance to add a new trophy to her managerial collection.
‘It’s a fantastic way to open the season domestically, the biggest stage and the top two teams in England in terms of the placings of last season,’ she said.
‘I know I’ve got one of the best teams in the world and I’m looking forward to playing another one of the best teams in the world in what is a brilliant season opener for women’s football in this country.’
‘It’s signalling the start of the season and it’s important the players understand there is a trophy to compete for, this is not a pre-season game.
‘It’s a really good moment to say to women’s football fans, ‘this is the best league in the world, we’ve got the best players in the league and no matter which game you’re going to, it’s gonna be a high level game’.
Chelsea’s last competitive game was their Continental Cup final victory over Arsenal at the end of February and captain Magdalana Eriksson admitted the squad have been desperate to experience that winning feeling again.
‘We’ve all been feeling like children again, finally getting the opportunity to play,’ said the skipper.
‘We’ve been really enjoying this pre-season, we’ve had some great signings coming in. The quality has been amazing.
‘It’s always tough games against Manchester City, they are really a big strong team, it’s always very tight. To win a new trophy and get another piece of silverware – that’s what we are all striving towards.’
City winger Caroline Weir scored the opening goal of the 2019-2020 WSL season with a 25-yard stunner against Manchester United at the Etihad. The Scottish international believes the Community Shield is the perfect opportunity to get the women’s game back on track after a long lay off.
‘I think unfortunately women’s sport, not just women’s football, hasn’t really been on our TV’s during lockdown,’ said Weir.
‘We watched the men come back so I think to have an occasion like this to kick things off it’s a huge thing. I think it’s what the game needs – a big occasion to get people talking about it and watching women’s football again.’
The Women’s Community Shield will be broadcast live on BBC1 at 12.30pm