Gareth Taylor admits the choice to host the Continental Cup final at AFC Wimbledon is an odd one as he prepares to take on his women’s side Manchester City to take on Chelsea in Sunday’s showpiece event.
City are in London this weekend, looking for their first silverware of the season after a Test campaign that put them out of contention for the Women’s Super League title after a nightmarish start on and off the pitch. Now, with key players back from injury, City have lost just one in 12 games to reach the Continental Cup final against Chelsea – the only side to have beaten them in this race.
The final will take place at AFC Wimbledon’s new Plow Lane stadium, just five miles from Chelsea’s home of Kingsmeadow. In fact, Kingsmeadow is the ground where the AFC Wimbledon men’s team played until they returned to their historic home of Plow Lane at the end of 2020.
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And Taylor admitted the choice of venue was curious, although he accepted the decision was made long before Chelsea’s involvement in the final was confirmed.
“It’s a bit strange, the location,” he said. You would think it would be more central in the UK. It was decided a long time ago, it was Watford last season in North London and now we are in Central London.
“We seem to be getting closer and couldn’t get closer to Chelsea than playing Chelsea. The venue was fixed a long time ago. The fact is, it’s a neutral venue.”
The 9,200-seat stadium is sold out for the final and will be broadcast live on BBC Two, with Taylor saying full stadiums are better than staging these events in larger venues with thousands of empty seats.
“Maybe that’s why they had it at Wimbledon, a slightly smaller stadium so more likely to be full,” he suggested.
“It’s brilliant. Fantastic, great publicity for the game. The fact that it’s sold out is on BBC2. Really good access and it’s a big step for the women’s game. A few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find the game on TV We sold out against United and it created a great atmosphere.
“These players are used to playing in big stadiums and big crowds. Nothing changes, it’s always about playing the game not the chances. Execute the game plan the way we want to. That’s great to have the support, a full stadium, it makes the occasion really enjoyable.”
Taylor also commented on the Continental Cup format, with City contesting a tough five-game group stage but Chelsea only joining in the quarter-finals due to their involvement in the Champions League.
” We had to work hard to get here, but the rules are the rules,” he noted.
“There is no divine right for us to win the trophy because we had a tougher run than Chelsea. Unfortunately, that’s not how the game works. We have to work hard in Saturday’s game , make sure we’re really focused with and without the ball.
“We would have been the same if we had succeeded in the Champions League and gone out like Chelsea. The rules are the rules, like the stadium, it’s already defined. There is no problem for us, we gotta go out and win it.”
Taylor has confirmed that Laura Coombs will be back available after injury, but Vicky Losada is doubtful for the game after being substituted in the win over Manchester United last weekend. Chloe Kelly is speeding up her recovery from a long-term injury but is unlikely to make the final.
And defender Alex Greenwood said she hoped the sold-out crowd could give City a boost in Chelsea territory.
She said: “It’s great news, definitely going in the right direction. It’s huge that it’s accessible for people to come and watch it and I hope it grows year by year.
“Our fans are great anyway. It’s around the corner for Chelsea but our fans will be traveling a lot. Our family and friends will be there too. They will be loud as always, it will be the same day in terms of Fans.
“For us it’s about pride and a good atmosphere to play up front. Our fans are always loud and we can always hear them. Hopefully we can give them something to cheer about on Saturday.”
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