The FA Women’s Super League is back after the winter break with Chelsea hoping to maintain their hold on the top of the table. Manchester City are in second, ahead, on goal difference, of Arsenal in third…
Saturday, January 20
Arsenal v Everton – Meadow Park (2pm)
Where to watch – FA Player (restricted to outside the UK only due to broadcast ‘blackout’ rulings)
Arsenal’s first-ever WSL defeat at the hands of their North London rivals Tottenham before the winter break put a dent in their title hopes, but they must put the result behind them as they head into the second half of the season.
Coming off the back of the loss, The Gunners manager Jonas Eidevall was pleased with his team’s strong 5-1 win in the FA Cup against Watford and knows they must continue that focus into their WSL performances.
Speaking to www.arsenal.com, he said: “We’re in a good place, but we need to be mindful of a very strong Everton performance against Aston Villa, so it’ll be a full training week; we’re going to work hard together and going to do our very best to keep developing, keep progressing and hopefully be very strong on Saturday.”
After a positive start to the year with that win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth-round last weekend, Everton will be hoping to continue with another positive performance against Arsenal.
The Toffees have added to their ranks over the January transfer window, with Danish midfielder Kathrine Kuhl joining on loan from Arsenal and experienced Danish forward Rikke Madsen signing from NWSL side North Carolina Courage.
Midfielder Lucy Hope returned to the squad for the FA Cup, having been out injured since October and is looking forward to showing what the team can do over the next six months.
Speaking to www.evertonfc.com, she said: “I say it all the time but there’s so much potential with this group. We’ve spoken about that, to start the year as we mean to go on. We did that on Saturday, we absolutely bossed it. Again, I just hope we can gather momentum, and take that into the next games.”
The teams last met back in May, with Arsenal winning 4-1 at Walton Hall Park. Goals for The Gunners came from Katie McCabe, Lotte Wubben-Moy and a brace from Caitlin Foord.
Sunday, January 21
Chelsea v Manchester United – Stamford Bridge (12.30pm)
Where to watch – BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website
Chelsea are still sitting pretty at the top of the table, and despite heavy defeat at the hands of Arsenal before the winter break, their position remains strong. With over twenty thousand tickets sold, their showpiece clash with Manchester United is set to be a big occasion for the Blues.
Unfortunately, they will be without star striker Sam Kerr for the rest of the season and longer as she became the latest victim of an ACL injury, which happened at a training session in Morocco. They are also still without defender Millie Bright, with no current timeline on her return to the squad.
So far in the transfer window, there is the arrival of Swedish defender Natalie Bjorn from Everton, joining her international clubmates Zecira Musovic and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd.
Young striker Aggie Beever-Jones has made an impression so far this season at the club and she will be important to Chelsea for the rest of the season.
Speaking to www.chelseafc.com about her performances so far, she said: “Maybe I didn’t expect myself to do as well as I have done. I credit a lot of it to my teammates, as they have to get the ball to me for me to score, but also the staff as well.”
She continued: “It’s been really motivating to score for my childhood club and I’m delighted with it. Hopefully, I can keep doing what I’ve been doing and help the team as much as possible.”
Manchester United are currently fourth in the table, four points behind third-placed Arsenal, but will not be counting themselves out of the title race just yet. They will also be chasing a spot for Champions League qualification and a successful run in the Continental Tyres League Cup and FA Cup, where they reached the final last season.
Manager Marc Skinner knows it is the most competitive season yet and they must keep focus in all competitions to keep momentum going.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “We are a team that aspires to win. We know historically if you drop too many points you don’t win the league. I do think it will be a different story this season though, but I might be proven wrong. The head-to-heads against title rivals become more important and we need to deal with them but not lose sight on the other games too.”
In their last meeting back in March, the Blues took the three points, a goal from Sam Kerr being the difference between the teams.
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur – Chigwell Construction Stadium (6.45pm)
Where to watch – Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Showcase
West Ham have had a turbulent start to the season, sitting second from bottom of the table, with only goal difference keeping them above Bristol City.
They had a stronger start to the year, forcing Chelsea into extra time in their fourth-round FA Cup tie last weekend, making the title holders work for their win.
The Hammers have had a strong transfer window, with experienced Australian midfielder Katrina Gorry joining the squad, US national midfielder Kristie Mewis joining from Gotham FC and Canadian centre-back Shelina Zadorsky on loan from Tottenham Hotspur.
Manager Rehanne Skinner will be hoping a fresh start to the year and added strength in the squad will pull the team out of the danger of relegation.
Speaking to www.whufc.com, she said: “Moving into the next couple of weeks, I think we’re building on what we said at the start of the season. It was always going to be a process, we were going to need to develop the squad and we were going to need to evolve the team. We want to take that into the league games and make sure we get some points on the board.”
Tottenham’s confidence will be riding high after their historic win over Arsenal in December and a coming from behind to win in their fourth-round FA Cup tie against Sheffield United last weekend.
The Lilywhites have made some key signings in the transfer window, with Australian International defender Charlotte Grant who left Swedish side Vittsjo in November, Chinese International Shuang Wang from Racing Louisville and Swedish winger Matilda Vinberg who joins from Hammarby.
Spurs star striker Bethany England, who has recently comeback from hip operation is also pleased with the return of two players, Olga Ahtinen and Eveliina Summanen.
Speaking to www.tottenhamhotspur.com, she said: “It’s nice to have everyone returning, there’s a lot of competition in this team and it’s pushing us to be better every day and that’s what we need if we want to challenge the top teams.”
Last time out, the points were shared between the teams following an entertaining 2-2 draw. Goals for West Ham came from Emma Snerle and Kit Graham, for Spurs, a brace from Bethany England.