28 mins: James is brought down by Mead to win a free kick. She has had a limited impact going forward but is doing well to slow Arsenal down in midfield.
26 mins: McCabe’s clearance in her own half is picked up by Cuthbert, who is fouled. From the free-kick, Fleming can’t connect cleanly with her shot from a tight angle.
25 mins: A spell of Chelsea possession ends when McCabe shunts James off the ball and concedes a free kick.
23 mins: Mead’s cross is overhit but is headed back across goal by McCabe. Chelsea are able to clear and we revert to the previous pattern of play, with the visitors looking to sit back and hit on the break.
22 mins: Foord twists away from Perisset down the left, winning a dangerous free kick which Mead will take …
20 mins: The rain is falling steadily and a few heavy challenges are flying in. The impressive Pelova looks to unpick Chelsea again, but Mjelde cuts out her attempted through ball.
Here’s the Chelsea goal. Was Sam Kerr interfering with play? You decide.
18 mins: Arsenal look to respond, and a fine Pelova pass frees Little, whose low ball to the back post is cleared by Perisset with Russo waiting to pounce.
Cuthbert’s composed turn and pass to Fleming opens up the Arsenal defence, and she plays the ball right to Kaneryd, who cuts inside and fires a low shot inside the near post. Kerr was offside and may well have been in the goalkeeper’s eyeline, but there’s no VAR here today.
Wow. Chelsea have been on the back foot since kick-off, but they break downfield and Johanna Kaneryd fires in the equaliser against the run of play!
10 mins: At the other end, Fleming immediately tests Zinsberger from 20 yards out – the keeper palms it away with relative comfort.
Kim Little rides a couple of clumsy tackles to break into the box and find Pelova, who shows great composure to turn and find Beth Mead on the right. She takes a touch inside and with Berger out of position, lashes the ball into the roof of the net!
Beth Mead with a belting finish, and Arsenal lead!
7 mins: Kerr, a little isolated up front, tries and fails to find a teammate, and Arsenal surge forward again …
6 mins: Arsenal have made the brighter start, and Russo almost gets in behind Carter, with Ann-Katrin Berger clearing the danger at the second attempt.
4 mins: Kerr looks to get in behind the high Arsenal back-line, but is caught offside.
3 mins: Lovely attacking move down the left, McCabe bursting down the right and Little backheeling into the path of Russo – but Niamh Charles is there to make a crucial intervention!
2 mins: Cuthbert is penalised for a foul on Little in midfield. Arsenal push forward but the offside flag is raised.
The players take a knee before the referee, Rebecca Welch, gets us under way.
Sir Elton’s “Step Into Christmas” is absolutely blaring over the Emirates Stadium PA. Is the announcer about to unleash Whamageddon on the thousands of fans in attendance? Let’s hope not.
Here’s Jonas Eidevall on having the likes of Beth Mead and Kim Little fit again: “It’s great having quality players back for us, it’s not been easy to pick a starting XI today. It’s a great problem to have.”
And Emma Hayes on Sam Kerr, who missed Australia duty to recover from an injury: “Sam played through the World Cup with a calf injury, and has been carrying that, and another issue within her foot. She’s needed time to get herself right because she hasn’t been 100%”.
Jonas Eidevall makes two changes from the team that beat West Ham before the international break. Lia Wälti and Kim Little come in for Kyra Cooney-Cross and Frida Maanum.
Sjoeke Nüsken and Jessie Fleming come in for Chelsea, with Sophie Ingle and Fran Kirby dropping to the bench. The big news is that Sam Kerr has recovered from a foot injury to captain the side today.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; McCabe, Ilestedt, Wubben-Moy, Catley; Pelova, Wälti; Mead, Little (c), Foord; Russo.
Subs: Beattie, Miedema, Maanum, D’Angelo, Maritz, Lacasse, Blackstenius, Codina, Cooney-Cross.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Berger; Périsset, Mjelde, Carter, Charles; Nüsken, Cuthbert; Kaneryd, Fleming, James; Kerr (c).
Subs: Musovic, Fishel, Ingle, Reiten, Lawrence, Kirby, Hampton, Buchanan, Beever-Jones.
The Arsenal team has dropped …
… and here’s the Chelsea line-up.
This game could earn a place in history before it begins, with Arsenal set to break their own WSL attendance record at a close-to-sold-out Emirates. This fixture is a fitting occasion for a record crowd, given both of these loval rivals’ star-studded squads and crowded trophy cabinets.
What happens on the pitch ought to be memorable, too. Arsenal began the season with dropped points and a big injury list, but have rallied to sit just three points behind Chelsea. The champions have experienced turmoil of their own, but even Emma Hayes’ upcoming departure has not shaken her team’s imperious form, with seven wins and one draw so far.
These two London rivals look the most likely to stay the course in an open title race, with plenty of excitement despite the stop-start calendar. Resuming after another international break, both teams will play just one further league game before the WSL’s month-long winter break.
That means today’s result is likely to have a lingering impact on the title race. Chelsea are seeking a win to shut down their rivals’ growing momentum; Arsenal are aiming to expose fragility within the league leaders. It’s a big game, on and off the field. Kick-off is at 12.30pm, GMT.