Continental Cup final preview: Key narratives ahead of Chelsea vs Bristol City

Chelsea play Bristol City on Sunday in the Women's Continental Cup final, with the 2020/21 season's first piece of silverware up for grabs.

Chelsea go into the fixture as defending champions, having won the competition as part of a league and cup double during the 2019/20 season. For Bristol, this is their first appearance in a major final since the 2013 FA Cup final.

The match kicks off at 14:30 (GMT) and is available to watch on BT Sport 2. Here's everything to look out for ahead of the clash.

1. Chelsea vying to replicate Arsenal

Chelsea are the defending champions | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

As current Continental Cup holders, Chelsea head into the final vying to be just the second team in the competition's history to defend the trophy.

The Blues beat Arsenal in last season's final with a dramatic late Beth England winner, and it is their London rivals who Chelsea are trying to replicate.

The Gunners are currently the only team to have defended the Continental Cup, winning the competition in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

2. Matt Beard makes history

Beard took charge of Bristol in January | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Bristol City boss Matt Beard will make history on Sunday when he leads his side out at Vicarage Road, becoming the first manager to take charge of a domestic cup final while on maternity cover.

The former West Ham boss is in temporary charge of the Robins, with Tanya Oxtoby currently on maternity leave.

Oxtoby guided Bristol through the competition's group stages and past the quarter final stage, with Beard then seeing the Robins past Leicester in the semi finals.

3. Gulf in class

Chelsea have ran out convincing winners over Bristol twice this season | Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Bristol go into the fixture as huge underdogs. In the last four league meetings between the pair, Chelsea have scored 24 goals (an average of six goals per game) and conceded just the once.

The Blues beat Bristol 9-0 in September - with nine different goal scorers - before Fran Kirby netted a brace in a 5-0 win in February.

Victory for Bristol would undoubtably go down as one of the biggest shocks in women's cup final history. They couldn't, could they?

4. Bristol are dangerous on the counter attack

Although underdogs, Bristol do carry a threat going forward, and can be absolutely lethal on the counter attack.

The speed, anticipation and goal scoring instinct of Ebony Salmon have caused sides all sorts of problems this season - she has 10 goals in all competitions, including four in the Continental Cup.

Chelsea have the best defensive record in the WSL, but did show themselves to be vulnerable to a bit of pace in behind during their Champions League last 16 first leg victory over Atletico Madrid. Sophie Ingle saw red for bringing down Rasheedat Ajibade inside 20 minutes as the Atletico striker got goal side and scampered in behind the Blues backline, suggesting there could be something there for Bristol and Salmon to exploit.

5. Chelsea's stacked squad contending with fixture congestion

Chelsea's squad is insanely talented - but they have had a busy couple of weeks | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Chelsea boast one of the most talented and ridiculously stacked squads in the WSL, and this makes them massive favourites for Sunday's clash.

However, the Blues have had to contend with a more congested fixture schedule than Bristol. Sunday's match will be their fourth in 11 days, while it will just be the Robins' second.

Chelsea put in a mammoth shift to beat Atletico in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash, emerging victorious despite their one-player deficit, and travelled to Italy in midweek for the return leg in Monza.

Six players have started each of Chelsea's last three matches - including forwards Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder. The Blues will be without fellow forward and last year's Continental Cup final hero Beth England due to concussion, while Erin Cuthbert and Magdalena Eriksson are making injury comebacks. Ye

It may only be a small consolation to Bristol, but this is the most stretched Chelsea's incredible squad has been all season.

6. Matt Beard aiming for first final victory

Beard has managed in two cup finals | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Beard will face his former side on Sunday, having spent three years in the Chelsea dugout between 2009 and 2012.

The 43-year-old guided Chelsea to the 2012 FA Cup final, but saw his side lose a four-goal thriller to Birmingham on penalties.

Beard was then in charge at West Ham when the Hammers reached the 2019 FA Cup final, but his side faced a similar challenge to that of Bristol on Sunday as they were beaten by red hot favourites Manchester City.

Although the former Chelsea boss is a two-time WSL champion with Liverpool, he has never tasted victory in a domestic cup competition. Could Sunday be the day?

7. Emma Hayes gunning for outright WSL managerial supremacy

Hayes has won the Continental Cup once | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Should Chelsea win on Sunday, Emma Hayes will unanimously become the most successful manager in the WSL era.

The Blues boss has six to seven major trophies to her name - seven if you include the 2017 shortened Spring Series. Victory in the Continental Cup final will take her to at least seven major trophies - the full eight if the Spring Series counts.

Any grey area surrounding whether the Spring Series counts as a major trophy will be rendered irrelevant should Chelsea win on Sunday, as Hayes will now definitely have overtaken former Man City boss Nick Cushing and ex Arsenal manager Laura Harvey (both on six trophies) to become the most decorated coach to have managed in the WSL.

Hayes still has some way to go to overhaul Vic Akers' pre-WSL 31-trophy tally, but she's making her moves.

Source : 90min