Everton-Arsenal Women's FA Cup tie more vital than ever
Everton defeated Arsenal to win the 2010 Women's FA Cup final
By Tony Leighton
There is far more at stake than a run to the FA Women's Cup final as holders Everton prepare to entertain last season's runners-up Arsenal in Sunday's fifth round.
Due to the forthcoming Super League's inaugural campaign not finishing until September, the Football Association have decided that England's representatives in next season's Champions League will be the two teams that reach the FA Cup final.
And that means that either the Toffees or the Gunners, who are both through to the last eight of this season's Champions League, will miss out on Europe next term.
So it is no wonder that Arsenal captain Faye White, whose team lifted the FA Cup five seasons in succession before this year, stated: "We want our Cup back!"
England central defender White added: "We've been in Europe for the last seven years and we want to go on being there every season.
"So although we're excited about the new Super League and what it might mean for the women's game, the FA Cup is our focus right now.
"We also want revenge on Everton for last season - we'd never lost an FA Cup final before and I don't want to go through the hurt I felt at the end of that game again."
Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record 10 times compared to Everton's two, but the Toffees are intent on making it three and clinching a cherished European place.
And with home advantage on Sunday, the club's star England midfielder Fara Williams is quietly confident of moving a step closer to the final.
The top two English teams will not both be in next year's Champions league
"Playing Arsenal is not the game you'd want at this stage of the competition but we know that on our day we can beat them as we proved last season," she said.
"It will be a close, high tempo game on Sunday and I firmly believe that we can win the match. But it will be a shame for either team to go out of the Cup because of the Champions League situation.
"We're the best two teams in the country and I think that the best two teams should be representing England in the Champions League."
Williams' sentiments are shared by a good number of people in the women's game, but the FA's decision means that there will be at least one English team who will next season be competing in Europe for the first time.
Each of the eight Women's Super League clubs, all of whom are making their entry into the FA Cup on Sunday, will fancy their chances.
At least two will fall at their first hurdle, however, for as well as Everton clashing with Arsenal there is an all-WSL meeting between Chelsea and Doncaster Belles.
Birmingham City and Lincoln face Premier League opposition in Barnet and Sunderland respectively, while Liverpool entertain Southern Division Charlton Athletic and Bristol Academy visit Northern Combination Sheffield Wednesday.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.