Just a day before the men encounter the south Londoners, the women's team meets with the Eagles. From one cup competition to another. Off the heels of a smooth 90-minute mid-week contest against Sunderland, Chelsea Women meet a second-tier outfit from south London, Crystal Palace.
Both clubs, ironically reached the fifth round of the FA Cup through a 3-1 triumph in the fourth. Emma Hayes' side against West Ham United. Palace took care of business vs. Blackburn Rovers via an eruption of goals in the final 15 minutes of regulation. The last time the Eagles competed in this round of the FA Cup, it was trounced by Arsenal 9-0 in May 2021, a match that saw eight different Gunners convert a chance.
The south London outfit sit just below the Lasses in the Championship on 27 points, having won two of their last three in the league. In her first campaign since moving over from Charlton Athletic, Laura Kaminski has led CPFC to become the most efficient attacking unit in the second-tier of English women's football.
In 14 league fixtures so far this season, Palace has netted an astounding 39 goals, 13 more than the next closest side, Southampton. Five players have accounted for five or more goal contributions this season including ex-Chelsea academy player Shanade Hopcroft. In an interview with The Athletic's Chloe Morgan this past week, Kaminski spoke about the mentality she and her players have with a trip to the five-time FA Cup champions on the horizon.
“The attitude among players is the same, no matter who they are playing against and no matter the competition," Palace's sideline leader stated. "The preparation and approach will be the same but the fact that it’s Chelsea does add a competitive edge.”
Unlike its opponents, Kaminski's crew heads into Sunday afternoon with an entire week of preparation under its belt. Two goals in the first 45 minutes including one in stoppage time by the league's most prolific goal scorer Elise Hughes pushed the London outfit past the Saints and into third last weekend. Just recently, the Eagles announced the signing of New Zealand international Ria Percival on loan from Tottenham, a piece the club hopes can lead it into the WSL.
The WSL's January Manager of the Month gave the Eagles their flowers, indicating the amount of respect she has for Kaminski and what she has done this season in south London.
"We have to acknowledge that they’re flying high. They’re contenders to go up," Hayes said. "I’ve watched them: they’re an organized team, they make it difficult out of possession, and they’re a threat going forward. They mean business."
It is going to take one special night on the road for the Eagles to upset a team that has not been eliminated in this round of the FA Cup since 2013. This cup was made for miracles like this, though. Hayes has started two completely different starting XIs in the last two matches, showing off the depth within the squad in the mid-week. Expect a strong XI, especially with a little more time to prepare for the massive top-of-the-table WSL fixture at home against Manchester City on Friday. Not to mention a quarterfinal berth is on the line.
Limiting individual defensive errors is always key, but an extra emphasis is on it due to the attacking strengths of the opponent, and the limited opportunities it may have. Hayes said she expects a low block, something she is no stranger to. It is not going to be like a walk in Hyde Park. Palace's ambitions are high. There are no free handouts in women's football. Hayes' crew understands that more than anyone, hoping to put an end to a run by a club the Blues may very well see in the top flight in 2024/25.
Note: Nathalie Björn is not cup-tied like she was on Tuesday, meaning she is up for selection.
Chelsea Women vs. Crystal Palace predicted starting XI
Goalkeepers: Zecira Musovic
Defenders: Jess Carter, Ashley Lawrence, Niamh Charles, Nathalie Björn
Midfielders: Sophie Ingle, Erin Cuthbert, Jelena Cankovic
Forwards: Mia Fishel, Aggie Beever-Jones, Guro Reiten
Chelsea Women vs. Crystal Palace match info
Date: Sunday, February 11
Time: 14:00 GMT, 9:00 a.m. EST
TV Broadcast: The FA Player
There are two home fixtures left at Kingsmeadow before the calendar turns to March. Don't miss out on any of it. Click the link to buy tickets.