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🔜 Preview | Royals women back in action against Manchester United

Reading travel to Manchester on Sunday

5 February 2021

After a fortnight’s break, Reading FC Women are back in action in the FA Barclays Women’s Super League on Sunday as they travel to Leigh Sports Village to take on Manchester United for a televised 12.30pm kick-off.

Reading were last in action on 23rd of January when they experienced a frustrating afternoon at Banks’s Stadium in arctic conditions against Aston Villa.

Reading went ahead after just 3 minutes through Angharad James and controlled the vast majority of the first-half, but were not able to score again despite constant attempts at the Villa goal. The home-side pulled level through a craftily worked free-kick on the 55th minute, before Rachel Rowe put the Royals back in front just two minutes later. The snow began falling in earnest and Chambers’ side looked to have everything sewn up and their first win of 2021 in the bag, until substitute Diana Silva poked home an equaliser for Villa on the 90th minute.

Draw number six of the season for Kelly Chambers’ side, leaves them in 6th place in the FA Barclays Women’s Super League table heading into Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.

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The Red Devils – form update

Since their narrow 2-1 victory at The Madejski eight weeks ago, Casey Stoney’s side have played a further four WSL fixtures. Firstly, they recorded a convincing 6-1 home victory over Bristol City with Leah Galton and Tobin Heath both netting twice. When fixtures resumed though after the Christmas break they faced much tougher opposition with an away trip to Chelsea. As expected, it was a tight and closely fought encounter – Pernille Harder gave the Blues a first-half lead but it looked promising for United when Lauren James equalised with her first WSL goal of the campaign. It was not to be, however, with Fran Kirby restoring the home team’s advantage and the Londoners holding on for three vital points, inflicting United’s first league defeat of the season in the process.

Goals from Galton and Ella Toone then secured a 2-0 home victory for United over Birmingham City, before last weekend saw them win 2-0 again, this time at Everton courtesy of goals from Toone and Christen Press. The result left United second in the table behind Chelsea only on goal difference. Emma Hayes’ Chelsea side do have a game in hand, however. United’s 32 league goals have come from 12 different players, with Toone and Galton leading the pack with six apiece, followed by Heath with 4.

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Squad details – January update

Having invested heavily pre-season in the likes of America duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press, and with Lucy Staniforth, Alessia Russo and Spanish defender Ona Batlle moving to Manchester, there was comparatively little activity concerning United in the January transfer window. However, defender Maria Thorisdottir did sign from Chelsea on an initial two-and-a-half-year contract. The 27-year-old has some 46 Norwegian caps. Meanwhile, outgoing movement sees 28-year-old England defender Abbie McManus has been loaned out to Tottenham for the remainder of the season.

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A previous encounter revisited

Sunday’s visit will be the Royals’ third to this venue. Last season United won the Women’s Super League encounter 2-0. Although Reading enjoyed plenty of possession they were punished by goals from Kirsty Hanson and Jess Sigsworth. Though the Royals have much happier memories of their visit in late August 2018. The group match in the Continental Tyres Cup was a historic day for United; being their first home game since relaunching. The crowd was a massive 4,835 that became a record for the competition. United’s hopes were high as they had won 1-0 at WSL side Liverpool the previous weekend. The Royals too were in good form having beaten Durham Wildcats 4-1 in their opening fixture. United had the better of the first half with Kirsty Hanson hitting the bar twice in a goalmouth scramble. It was Reading though who took the lead 11 minutes into the second half when Brooke Chaplen pounced on a loose ball after United goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain had parried a shot from Gemma Davison. Reading, despite being reduced to 10 players when Molly Bartrip was shown a second yellow card, added a second through Davison in stoppage time for a fantastic 2-0 victory for Kelly Chambers’ side.

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How to watch

Manchester United Women v Reading FC Women will be live on the BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website from 12.20pm, as well as the FA Player.

Manchester United Women v Reading FC Women | Sunday 7th February | 12.30pm | Leigh Sports Village

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