With four games remaining – five for some – the Women’s Super League season is hurtling towards a fascinating conclusion.
The title hangs in the balance, the race for third is well and truly alive and the battle to beat the drop is not yet decided.
What is certain are the six clubs embroiled in each of those respective head-to-heads – it’s a game of regional one-upmanship.
Chelsea will attempt to fend off London rivals Arsenal for the WSL crown, while it’s an all-Manchester showdown for the third and final Champions League spot.
All eyes are on the Midlands at the foot of the table, with Birmingham City favourites to drop out of the top flight – although Leicester remain catchable, however improbable that may be.
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There is little jeopardy left in places from fifth to 10th, but plenty of scope for movement as we enter the decisive phase of an intriguing 2021/22 campaign. Will it go all the way to the final day on May 8?
Chelsea’s title to lose?
Chelsea are the frontrunners to clinch the WSL title for a second consecutive season – and pip Arsenal to the post
If April’s FA Cup semi-final face off between reigning WSL champions Chelsea and their chief challengers Arsenal is anything to go by, you would give the upper hand to the Blue side of London.
That is not to underestimate the Gunners’ credentials – they have led from the front for the majority of the season – but came up second best against Emma Hayes’ seasoned champs at Meadow Park. When the pressure is on, Chelsea almost always produce the goods.
- Blues ease back into WSL top spot
They have the edge ahead of a five-game run-in for each side, with Chelsea maintaining a one-point advantage. Any slip-up between now and mid-May would likely hand the other the title.
Hayes was clear in her conviction following FA Cup victory over Arsenal, leaving nothing to chance. “My team know how to execute in the biggest moments”, she claimed as Chelsea progressed to their third final in five years.
It’s difficult to disagree.
Chelsea run riot against Reading to reclaim top spot
The west Londoners close out their season against Man United – arguably their toughest remaining fixture – while Arsenal have still got to negotiate a rearranged north London derby with Tottenham on May 4.
Still all to play for, but Chelsea currently hold the trump card.
Who will qualify for Europe?
Man City are attempting to beat neighbours Man Utd to third spot
In terms of competition in the women’s game, Manchester has never been more buoyant. Traditionally, City have dominated, but the Reds have carried out a shrewd catch-up plan in recent years.
Now, the close-run battle for third exemplifies what little gap exists between the red and sky blue halves of Manchester.
Speaking in early April, City boss Gareth Taylor admitted the race for third has been made more exciting by the historic rivalry between the Manchester clubs; “it would be different if the tie for third spot was with Spurs,” he acknowledged.
Opta facts: Man City
- Only Arsenal (15) and Chelsea (12) have scored more FA WSL goals in the final 15 minutes of matches this season than Man City (11).
- Since a run of conceding 18 goals across eight FA WSL matches between September and December this season, Man City have only conceded twice in nine games in 2022, keeping seven clean sheets.
- Only Beth Mead (41) and Fran Kirby (35) have created more chances in open play than Man City’s Lauren Hemp this season (31).
The run-in certainly favours City, who don’t face anyone in the top five between now and the end of term, while United travel to title contenders Chelsea on the final day – although Marc Skinner’s side currently hold the numerical advantage, three points ahead having played a game more.
Again, this two-horse race is likely to go down to the wire barring any unforeseen hiccups against lesser placed teams.
Birmingham on the brink
Birmingham hold Everton but are unlikely to escape the drop
It’s unlikely that Birmingham will catch Leicester in a bid to beat the drop, but not a mathematical uncertainty.
Darren Carter’s side have only won once all season – a shock victory over Arsenal in February. Retrospectively, that result alone is going to have a profound effect on proceedings at the top end of the table, though that will be of little comfort to Birmingham at the tail end.
Opta facts: Birmingham
- Birmingham City have lost their last five away FA Women’s Super League matches, their longest ever run of consecutive away defeats in the competition.
- Birmingham have had just five sequences of 10 or more passes in open play in the FA Women’s Super League this season, at least 16 fewer than any other side.
- Since going 2-0 up before losing 3-2 against Reading, Birmingham haven’t led for a single minute in any of their five FA WSL games. The Blues have led for the fewest minutes (143) and trailed for the most (840) in WSL matches this season.
In order to stay in the top tier, they need to outperform Leicester by seven points and make a dent in their inferior goal difference. It’s a mountainous task considering they still have to play Chelsea and Man City.
Bristol City were relegated in 2020/21 having amassed 12 points. Birmingham currently have five.
They travel to Brighton on Saturday with three points crucial to any faint survival hopes.
WSL fixture schedule
April 23: Brighton vs Birmingham, kick-off 2pm
April 24: Man City vs Leicester, kick-off 2pm
April 24: Reading vs West Ham, kick-off 2pm
April 24: Tottenham vs Chelsea, kick-off 2:30pm
April 24: Aston Villa vs Man Utd, kick-off 6pm
April 24: Everton vs Arsenal, kick-off 6:30pm, live on Sky Sports
April 28: Chelsea vs Spurs, kick-off 7:45pm, live on Sky Sports
April 30: Man City vs Brighton, kick-off 11am
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