Chelsea Women vs. Arsenal Women, Conti Cup final preview, predicted XI

The first opportunity at silverware is here. On Sunday afternoon, Chelsea Women face off against Arsenal for the second straight campaign with the Conti Cup title on the line.
Chelsea FC  v Arsenal FC - Barclays Women¥s Super League
Chelsea FC v Arsenal FC - Barclays Women¥s Super League / Crystal Pix/MB Media/GettyImages

Two storied clubs within the women's game. Another chance to write their names in the record books.

With the usual cup final heroine Sam Kerr watching from the sideline, Emma Hayes' Chelsea Women aim to snatch back what was housed in west London from 2019 to 2021. In its way: Arsenal Women, the defending Conti Cup champions coming in with a whole lot to prove following a dismal display in the Women's Super League at Stamford Bridge just a few weeks ago. The Gunners could extend their record with a Sunday triumph, putting their league cup total at seven which would be three more than any other club.

The North London outfit smashed London City Lionesses, and Aston Villa 4-0 in the previous two rounds while an early Lauren James goal accompanied by a stellar Hannah Hampton performance pushed the Blues past Manchester City into the final. In the last two Conti Cup finals, the Blues have watched a one-goal lead disappear, allowing the opposition right back into the match. In her pre-match press conference, Hayes made her message quite clear.

"I have watched our performances in the last two Conti Cup finals and the players have, again and again," Hayes explained. "Let me be clear on this, the team knows exactly how I feel about the final on Sunday in terms of showing up and showing ourselves. I don't care if this final is important to Arsenal, it is absolutely important to me."

The West Londoners' sideline leader continued, "You have to show up on the day. It’s two top-level teams and both are capable of winning the game. Both have their qualities but you still have to show up and present yourself in the way that gives you the best chance."

Defender Nathalie Björn is of course not eligible to play in this competition, but Mayra Ramirez could very well make it into the starting XI after impressing Hayes in her return to the lineup against Ajax in the mid-week. James, Melanie Leupolz, Niamh Charles, and Hannah Hampton will be coming off a full 90 minutes of rest. LJ, a player who knifed through the Gunners on March 15, piling up six successful take ons from her seven attempts should be more than ready to go in Wolverhampton.

Ramirez is going to be an absolute handful for Arsenal, a club that has not encountered the Colombian in CFCW blue just yet. Yes, the Gunners should be well prepared given they haven't played since last Sunday, but it will be a whole different story for the backline in red once they attempt to move No. 35 off the ball.

Per usual, for these two, all eyes are on the midfield battle. The three of Erin Cuthbert, Sjoeke Nusken, and Leupolz dominated the three-player midfield of Arsenal in mid-March. Victoria Pelova was a straight-up ghost. She has to be impactful, similar to what she was like at the Emirates in December. That'd have to be without Lia Walti next to her who is just one of the Gunners that will be missing out on Sunday. Eidevall expressed that the Swiss midfielder is set to be sidelined for a few weeks now due to a knee injury.

Chelsea Women vs. Arsenal Women projected starting XI

Goalkeeper: Hannah Hampton

Defenders: Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, Eve Perisset, Kadeisha Buchanan

Midfielders: Erin Cuthbert, Sjoeke Nusken, Melanie Leupolz

Forwards: Lauren James, Guro Reiten, Mayra Ramirez

Chelsea Women vs. Arsenal Women Conti Cup final match info

Date: Sunday, March 31

Time/Stadium: 15:00 BST, 10:00 a.m. EST at Molineux Stadium

TV Broadcast: BBC Two, The FA Player

Chelsea Women don't return to action until April 14 in the Women's FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United in Northern England.