Chelsea Women vs. West Ham United, FA Cup preview, predicted XI

After a little over three weeks off, Chelsea Women return to the pitch to kick off its defense of the FA Cup against West Ham United without the Australian star up top.
Chelsea FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Women's Super League
Chelsea FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Women's Super League / Visionhaus/GettyImages
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Melanie Leupolz
Chelsea FC v West Ham United - Barclays Women´s Super League / Tom Dulat/GettyImages

It's been months since Skinner's team has triumphed at the conclusion of 90 minutes. In fact, the west London outfit began the Irons' winless streak across all competitions back in October which now sits at nine contests. In order to earn a result, it's quite clear the visitors are going to have to take some risks. For the girls in blue, it's about capitalizing on those against a club as hungry for a result as any in the English game right now.

For the first time since November 26 in the Women's Super League against Leicester City, the west Londoners are back in the confides of Kingsmeadow. The last time WHU traveled to Norbiton, it left without posing that much of a threat to Zecira Musovic between the sticks. A one-two between Erin Cuthbert and Jessie Fleming put a bow on a relatively straightforward league win 17 days prior to Halloween. This was all done without Guro Reiten.

Don't be fooled though, WHU frustrated the Chels going forward that evening in south west London. Skinner drilled her side well. The Blues only challenged Mackenzie Arnold once in goal throughout the first 35 minutes of that game. It wasn't like the Irons were camped in their own half either. There were times in which the east London outfit strung together some sequences in the opposing half. Even with that, Hayes' side looked as comfortable as ever only up a goal for the majority of that match.

Emma Hayes' crew will have to do it all without its two most outward leaders, Sam Kerr and Millie Bright. In her most recent interview, Hayes expressed that Kerr underwent surgery on Thursday while No. 4 in central defense still does not have a timeline for a return.

The biggest question is who starts up top in place of No. 20? It's what everyone in women's football wants to know. It could be Aggie Beever-Jones, one of the club's top-three goal scorers this season. Due to the fact that she has shown an ability to be a spark off the bench, USWNT forward Mia Fishel is more likely to get the nod in the starting XI on Sunday. Hayes could opt for a front two if needed with someone like Fran Kirby accompanying Beever-Jones up top. Japanese youngster Maika Hamano is also an option, but realistically as a game changer.

Despite the concerning injury news, there are players that are working back into the side. While Catarina Macario won't compete this Sunday, she is on the right track for a potential reintroduction into full team training right around the corner per Hayes. A return before February? That seems ambitious, but we can dream.