Wild Conti Cup drama set to continue as Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Aston Villa battle for glory

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Talk about drama.

Who would have thought that one tournament could bring us all the excitement of ineligible players, suspiciously waterlogged pitches and even a manager being fired when she was supposed to be mid-game?

Villa's Maritz was cup-tied when she played in this competition, having already played for Arsenal this season

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Villa’s Maritz was cup-tied when she played in this competition, having already played for Arsenal this seasonCredit: Getty

It could only be the Continental Tyres League Cup.

Having started with 23 teams, we are now left with our four semi-finalists.

Arsenal host Aston Villa on Wednesday, March 6 and Chelsea travel to Manchester City on Thursday, March 7.

The semi-finalists are the teams that finished in the top four places of the WSL last season.

Aston Villa are now the outlier there, though, as they currently sit eighth after a poor start to their WSL campaign.

It would take a truly exceptional – but not impossible – run in the remainder of this season for them to climb back up into the top four.

And though their odds of winning the Conti Cup are likewise slim, the pull of a first ever major trophy is strong.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are the only teams ever to have won the Conti Cup before meaning Villa are the last contender if there is to be a new winner this year.

Defending champs Arsenal are looking for their seventh Conti Cup trophy

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Defending champs Arsenal are looking for their seventh Conti Cup trophyCredit: Getty

But how did our final four get here and which of them will go on to lift the trophy at Molineux on March 31? talkSPORT.com takes a look.

The Defenders

Arsenal are going for a record seventh League Cup trophy – no team has come close to their level of success in this competition.

Their famous 3-1 victory over Chelsea in last year’s final at Selhurst Park was their first trophy since 2019.

And while their WSL title hopes are still just about alive, they may well believe the Conti Cup is their best chance to ensure they do not suffer another campaign without silverware.

Their run up to this point has been pretty smooth sailing.

Although their quarter-final against the London City Lionesses was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch – the Championship side used the time to sack their manager – they put four past them when the match was eventually played.

A particularly interesting battle could take place in the midfield as Villa’s Jordan Nobbs comes up against her former teammates.

Nobbs is still remembered as an Arsenal legend

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Nobbs is still remembered as an Arsenal legendCredit: Getty Images – Getty
But it is Villa who have been benefitting from her skill lately

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But it is Villa who have been benefitting from her skill latelyCredit: Getty

The Villa(i)ns

There are many people who are outraged by the fact that Aston Villa are still even in this competition.

Just ask Manchester United.

The Red Devils had thought they were through to the knockout stages, only to be confusingly knocked out after Villa fielded an ineligible player in their final group game.

It was a mistake that some believed should well have cost them their place in the competition instead.

But Carla Ward’s side then narrowly defeated Brighton on penalties in their quarter-final in January.

The last time these two sides met was in October in the WSL when Arsenal scored twice in stoppage time to come from behind for the win.

It could be a close one though – when the two sides met on the final day of last season, it was Villa who prevailed thanks to Rachel Daly.

If Villa do progress to the final against the odds, then the Lionesses’ striker will probably have had more than a bit to do with it.

Daly revolutionised Villa last season - can she help them to a first major trophy?

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Daly revolutionised Villa last season – can she help them to a first major trophy?Credit: Getty
Carla Ward is hoping to put the drama of fielding an ineligible player behind her

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Carla Ward is hoping to put the drama of fielding an ineligible player behind herCredit: Getty

The Quadruple-Hunters

It is being taken for granted that the biggest challenge for Chelsea in securing a potential quadruple this year will be in the Champions League.

But one slip-up in any of their domestic competitions could just as easily end their quest to do what no one has done since Arsenal in 2007/8.

Heavy defeat in the final of this competition to Arsenal last year will have stung – badly.

And in Emma Hayes’ last season, the Blues are hoping to collect as many trophies as they possibly can before their legendary manager departs for the USA.

But getting past Manchester City will be no easy feat, especially now that Chelsea have lost two of their key strikers – Sam Kerr and Mia Fishel – to the dreaded ACL injury.

With England defender Millie Bright still looking unlikely to make her return anytime soon, it has to be said that it is Manchester City who head into this one with the advantage.

Chelsea were gutted by their comprehensive defeat to Arsenal last year

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Chelsea were gutted by their comprehensive defeat to Arsenal last yearCredit: Getty
But they know how good it feels like to lift this particular trophy

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But they know how good it feels like to lift this particular trophyCredit: Getty Images

The Hunters

Chelsea might still be on for a quadruple – but it must not be overlooked that Manchester City are still also on the hunt for a possible treble.

City won a huge battle in the WSL title race with an away victory over Chelsea.

To put the scale of that achievement into context, the Blues had not been beaten at their home ground Kingsmeadow since 2016.

It was also Man City who knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup in the fifth round.

They will be looking to knock another giant out of another cup competition on Thursday.

They are on an 11-game winning streak in all competitions and it is looking like it will take something miraculous to end that.

City are flying high this season

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City are flying high this seasonCredit: Getty
They last lifted the Conti Cup in 2019

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They last lifted the Conti Cup in 2019Credit: getty

With the likes of 19-year-old prodigy Khiara Keating between the sticks, Lionesses legend Alex Greenwood with the armband and Golden Boot leader Bunny Shaw leading the lines, it would be wise never to rule Manchester City out.

The Continental Tyres League Cup semi-finals take place on Wednesday, March 6 and Thursday, March 7.

You can tune into talKSPORT’s Women’s Football Show on Mondays from 7pm on talkSPORT 2.

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