Manchester United and Aston Villa sit second and third respectively in the WSL table after two rounds of fixtures so far in 2022/23. But their first meeting of the season comes with the start of the Continental Cup group stage.

Marc Skinner’s United have crushed Reading and exorcised some demons against West Ham, while Carla Ward’s Villa pulled off a big shock against Manchester City and followed it up against Leicester.

They begin the competition in Group A alongside Everton, Durham and Sheffield United. Villa, arguably the WSL’s most improved team since 2021/22, didn’t make it out of the group stage last season, while United reached the semi-finals.

No club other than Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City have ever lifted the Conti Cup, with each of the last four shared by Chelsea and City alone.

Both clubs will be chasing a positive result here to further nurture their early season momentum and go into the October international break on a high.

When is kick off? Saturday 1 October, 12:30 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Bescot Stadium
TV channel/live stream? MUTV (joins game from 12:45)
Referee? Melissa Burgin

Summer signing Tash Harding isn’t ready to feature but is making progress. The game is also too soon for Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, while Villa remain without long-term trio of absentees Simone Magill, Remi Allen and Ruesha Littlejohn.

There are no rules preventing loan players from turning out against their parent club, meaning Kirsty Hanson could feature. Carla Ward has vowed to take the Conti Cup more seriously this season than she has in the past, but also hasn’t ruled out rotation to give others player chances.

Marc Skinner plans to rotate his starting XI for this one after picking the same team for the WSL wins over Reading and West Ham. That could mean first starts for the likes of Adriana Leon and Nikita Parris, and a United debut for yet to feature France centre-back Aissatou Tounkara.

Teenage midfielder Grace Clinton is available after missing out last weekend through illness. Rachel Williams is still out but will return to full training next week, with long-term absentee Aoife Mannion still on course to be back playing in January.

Aston Villa (4-3-3): Leat; Mayling, Patten, Turner, Pacheco; Dali, Corsie, Gregory; Lehman, Daly, Hanson

Man Utd (4-3-3): Baggaley; Batlle, Tounkara, Turner, Blundell; Zelem, Moore, Boe Risa; Parris, Thomas, Leon

The games between these two clubs last season were very different, with United winning handsomely at home but Villa digging in and holding on for a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture. But given how both teams have started the season this could be a very entertaining watch, even if there is an element of rotation due to it being a cup contest.

United will go in as favourites, but it is unlikely to be a one-sided game.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Man Utd

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