Sports

The Question – Is the Gap Closing in the Women’s Super League?

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Chelsea are clear favorites to retain their Women’s Super League crown this year, but Manchester United, Arsenal and Aston Villa all boast impressive rosters filled with new talent that promise an action-packed Women’s Super League campaign.

Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Launched this fall 2019, The Offside Rule WSL Edition is our weekly podcast covering Barclays FA Women’s Super League. Hosted by Lynsey Hooper and Kait Borsay, it covers each team in competition as well as national team and club news. This award-winning show also covers news from each club in their league competitions.

The top three teams in the WSL spend almost twice as much as their closest challengers and, coupled with investors and fans’ expectations of success, are pushing English women’s soccer into an uncomfortable liminal space.

Geographically speaking, Manchester United and Chelsea don’t directly vie with each other for rivalry – being located 123 miles apart according to a direct flight path – yet both clubs share one characteristic – an intense drive to dominate domestic and international trophies at every opportunity – which may not yet have reached its full potential; nonetheless it remains an undeniably powerful force within football.

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Chelsea vs. Brighton

Brighton breezed past Wrexham 3-0 in their last preseason fixture but will face a much stiffer test here. They have scored 13 second-half goals across six league matches this year — three more than any other team according to 7.78xG (expected goals).

On a qualitative front, they rank highly for expected assists and close second for goal contributions with Joao Pedro leading with 2.01xA xA; additionally there’s Karou Mitoma’s tenacity and Jodie Kerr’s energy being prominent features of their team’s play.

Roberto De Zerbi will surely not overlook the Continental Cup in favor of regular league fixtures despite its potential advantages. After resting key attackers Evan Ferguson, Kaoru Mitoma and Ansu Fati against Bournemouth (only 45 minutes), De Zerbi may elect to rest more of them this time around and start with Nicolas Jackson and Lesley Ugochukwu against a side boasting one of the strongest second-half defensive units in the league.

Chelsea vs. Manchester City

Chelsea are hoping to regain top spot in the WSL table at Stamford Bridge and will attempt to do so without Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka Romeo Lavia and Wesley Fofana for this game.

City take the lead when Erling Haaland scores from close range for them, yet controversially award a penalty against Marc Cucurella after appearing to handle the ball inside of the box; VAR confirms this decision.

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Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is among several high-profile executives pushing for English soccer top flight to drop promotion and relegation, citing how such an arrangement would ensure profitability for clubs by enabling them to invest more into players and facilities. Unfortunately, this remains an extremely contentious topic with many wary of any changes which might alter the existing soccer pyramid; although any such shift might take time. Mauricio Pochettino will no doubt want his side vying for top three finish in any event.

Chelsea vs. Aston Villa

Monitoring the top clubs in Women’s Super League can feel like celebrity-spotting. Admiring their expensively assembled squads and counting off World Cup winners and Ballon d’Or nominees on ground tours is often like stargazing. But in today’s age of social distancing, these ground tours may become difficult or impossible altogether.

However, this season the gap amongst the leading four has narrowed significantly – Manchester United, City and Chelsea all dropped points at home while Villa has appeared threatening.

Villa’s unconvincing displays in front of goal and their inability to keep clean sheets has made them hard to predict, though Opta predicts them as favourites to win on Sunday. They will need to show more consistency up front and show much better goalkeeping; otherwise a repeat performance against Bournemouth would not come as a shock.

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