After last weekend saw the Continental Cup get underway, the Women’s Super League returns and begins with a blockbuster tie between Manchester United and Liverpool.
Elsewhere there’s a top-of-the-table clash between Everton and Manchester City, meanwhile Brighton travel to Arsenal in a bid to secure points off another top three side just as they did with Chelsea.
Manchester United v Liverpool
History comes knocking twice in this fixture for Manchester United. Their first game since forming was a narrow 1-0 win against their rivals and now arguably their best chance so far to secure their first ever points in the Women’s Super League. Both of these sides currently sit bottom of the table – along with Birmingham City – having failed to pick up any points in their opening two fixtures.
United had a tough start to their WSL campaign, suffering 1-0 defeats to Man City and Arsenal with the latter coming more recently and to a late Danielle van de Donk goal at home. Despite two losses under their belt, there have been many positives to take from each game and with summer signings Jackie Groenen and Lotta Okvist set to return from a short injury spell, they’ll feel confident they can get something out of the game – especially given they didn’t play in the Conti Cup last weekend.
Liverpool are without a win across all competitions this season – losing twice in the league and in their opening Conti Cup group game. Both WSL defeats were narrow 1-0 losses to Reading and Tottenham respectively; playing the remainder of the latter down to 10 players following Niamh Fahey’s dismissal. Vicky Jepson’s side were on the end of a cup upset last weekend as Championship side Sheffield United came from behind twice before hitting a 94th minute winner and stealing all three points. In spite of the results, Melissa Lawley has been a bright spark for Liverpool and earned a call up to train with the senior England squad.
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At least one of these sides is guaranteed to pick up their first points of the season come end of play on Saturday and it has the added edge of being a derby. Given recent performances, I think United will prove to be too strong for Liverpool and with their defence looking relatively solid, it will have to take something special to break it down.
Saturday 28th September, 12pm kick-off
Everton v Manchester City
Two of the three teams at the top of the table go head to head this weekend in a game where at least one of these sides is guaranteed to drop their first points of the season. Level on wins, goal difference and points there is no separating the two sides – yet.
Everton opened their league campaign with a scruffy win against struggling Birmingham and followed it with an assured performance against Bristol City in which they won 2-0 thanks to Chloe Kelly’s outrageous brace. Willie Kirk’s side look a world away from the team fighting relegation last season and although it’s still early on, there’s clear intent on what they want to achieve. Kelly’s recent performance against Bristol even earned her a call up to train with the England senior squad. Despite their league form, they did fall to a Conti Cup defeat last weekend against Birmingham, leaving them without points after their opening group game.
Manchester City are flying across all competitions this season. Unbeaten in the league, a thumping 5-0 win in their opening Conti Cup game and resounding two legs against Lugano in the Champions League. Their fixture against Everton will prove to be a test of their squad depth – though with the amount of quality they have in each position it shouldn’t phase them too much. Having already defeated Manchester United and Reading in the league, Cushing and his side will feel confident that they will be able to continue their form and compete with the toughest teams across the season.
Both sides will be fighting to keep their 100% league record and City’s strength and quality in depth may prove to be too much for Everton. Having said that however, if there is to be a league upset – especially so early on – Everton may just be responsible for it.
Sunday 29th September, 12.30pm kick-off
Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion
Both Arsenal and Brighton are unbeaten in the league so far – with the former picking up two wins while the latter sits on two draws – including an impressive 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea.
Arsenal have seemingly struggled in their opening two games despite picking up two wins – but will take confidence coming off the back of a strong Conti Cup victory and qualifying for the next round of the Champions League. 22-year-old Leah Williamson has been undoubtedly their best player of the season so far, occupying both the CB and – at times – the defensive mid role. However, with Mead and Miedema back on the scoresheet and Nobbs and Walti making their returns from injury, it could be a very different looking Arsenal from their opening two games.
Playing the league’s best teams and picking up points isn’t for everyone – but it is for Brighton. Last time out in the WSL they picked up an impressive win at home to Chelsea when Whelan scored late on – but in the dying moments of the game Engman came up clutch to rescue a point for Chelsea. Following that draw and success in the Conti Cup last weekend, Brighton will be feeling positive going into this game and look to halt Arsenal’s charge for back-to-back titles.
With two wins in two, Arsenal will be working to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, but Brighton proving they can go toe-to-toe with teams like Chelsea could make for an interesting match-up.
Sunday 29th September, 12.30pm kick-off
Birmingham City v Reading
Birmingham, much like United and Liverpool, are yet to pick up any points in the opening weeks of the WSL season and it doesn’t get any easier when they welcome a strengthened Reading side on Sunday.
Birmingham are facing down the barrel of a tough season and given departures in the summer, it wasn’t to come as a surprise. With two defeats in their first two games, picking up points at home to Reading could be key for them. Midfielder Brianna Visalli has been a constant bright spark for them and will be ever present in Sunday’s game; while the entire team will take confidence on the back of their Conti Cup victory last weekend against Everton.
Reading had a really exciting summer of recruitment but are yet to hit the ground running despite picking up a narrow win in their opening game of the season. Their second game of the season was a different story in which they were seemingly swept aside by an impressive Manchester City side. Despite the loss, Grace Moloney in goal was a standout performer and will be critical for them going into this game; but it’s equally as important for them to be clinical going forward and putting their chances away.
This fixture could go either way – while Reading look the stronger side, Birmingham picking up a cup win last season could be the turning point they needed early on this season.
Sunday 29th September, 2pm kick-off
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham and Tottenham are level on points going into this game – with both of them suffering a defeat in their opening games and then going on to pick up wins against Birmingham and Liverpool respectively.
West Ham have had a relatively slow start to the season. They were unlucky not to get anything from their season opener at Arsenal and narrowly beat Birmingham by just the one goal. With arguably one of the best transfer windows out of the WSL clubs, it’s a surprise they haven’t fired out of the blocks right away but a game against league newbies Tottenham could be the perfect opportunity to do so.
Spurs have proved however they are no push-overs in their debut season, coming close to picking up points at Chelsea but for a screamer from England in their opener and then picking up all three points in their game against Liverpool. A game against West Ham will come as a welcomed challenge to really test the level they’re at and given how exciting they are going forward; it could be a fun game to watch.
This is yet another fixture where it’s hard to see which way it could go – both sides look promising thus far but the experience and quality of West Ham could just see them edge it.
Sunday 29th September, 2.30pm
Bristol City v Chelsea
Bristol City have had a tough start to their league campaign following an opening day draw to Brighton and a 2-0 away to Everton. It hasn’t been easy sailing for Chelsea either, a hard-fought win against rivals Spurs in their first game was followed by splitting points with Brighton in a late 1-1 draw.
Bristol are – in theory – a really exciting and young side that could be frightening to face but it just hasn’t clicked into place for them yet. At times they’ve looked threatening on the attack especially with summer signing Ebony Salmon being a menace for defenders. A stable defence and the best goalkeeper in the league, there are foundations of a really strong team there and they’ll be hoping to find their feet when they welcome Chelsea this weekend.
Chelsea have their ambitions set high this season with players eyeing the domestic treble but dropping points away to Brighton would not have been part of the plan. With their usual rivals in Man City and Arsenal winning both of their opening games, it could be crucial in the long run for them to pick up the maximum number of points against a strong Bristol side. As shown with Everton’s Chloe Kelly last time out, it needs something pretty special to beat Sophie Baggaley in the Bristol goal.
This game is important for both sides in their own right as Bristol will look to secure their first win of the season meanwhile Chelsea will be wanting to keep up with their title rivals and three points here could be crucial in doing so.
Sunday 29th September, 3pm kick-offNews Now - Sport News