Normality is set to resume in the FA Barclays Women’s Super League as the sides return from the festive break for the first round of 2020 action, writes Ella Jerman.
Arsenal could make it ten home games unbeaten while City aim to keep up the pace at the Hive, but all eyes are likely to be on Kingsmeadow as Sam Kerr could make her long-awaited WSL debut.
Manchester United v Bristol City
Sunday, 12pm, Leigh Sports Village – live on the FA Player
It’s been quite the start to life in the top flight for Casey Stoney’s Manchester United.
The Red Devils currently sit fourth with five wins from nine and will be confident of making it six when they host bottom of the table Bristol, who are yet to pick up three points.
United have plenty of firepower in their ranks, with Lauren James (5), Kirsty Hanson (3) and Katie Zelem (3) all getting amongst the goals so far. With the three all under the age of 23, the future certainly seems bright for the Red Devils too.
But despite their miserable start, the same could be said for City who have the likes of young Lioness Sophie Baggaley between the sticks and promising 18-year-old forward Ebony Salmon expected to produce the goods.
Chelsea v Reading
Sunday, 12:30pm, Kingsmeadow – live on the FA player
It’s like Christmas all over again for Chelsea fans.
Fans went wild for the Blues social media when the first pictures of Sam Kerr in training were released after the club announced the signing of the Australian superstar in November, and Chelsea and WSL aficionados alike will be hoping to get a first glimpse of her in action against Reading on Sunday.
It’s not as if Chelsea are struggling for goals with the likes of Bethany England, Ji So-Yun and Erin Cuthbert in their ranks, so the addition of Kerr will make Emma Hayes’ side some force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the season.
Kerr scored a record 19 goals in 23 matches for Chicago Red Stars in the American National Women’s Soccer League last year, earning her third consecutive golden boot.
Tottenham v Manchester City
Sunday, 2pm, The Hive – live on the FA player
Only three points adrift from Arsenal, Manchester City will be gunning to get their 2020 off to a positive start and prove why they’re still in the running for their first league title since 2016.
The Citizens still managed to impress during the first half of the season despite Lionesses Georgia Stanway and Ellen White being out injured, but with their frontline now all back fit and firing Spurs will need to be on red alert at the Hive.
Tottenham have enjoyed a relatively positive start to life in the top flight thus far, winning four of their ten games to sit seventh at Christmas.
Brighton v Liverpool
Sunday, 2pm, The People’s Pension Stadium – live on the FA player
Brighton welcome Liverpool to the south coast in what could prove to be a crucial relegation battle as we enter the second half of the top flight season.
The Seagulls sit just above eleventh-placed Liverpool in ninth, with just four points separating the two struggling sides.
There haven’t been too many positives for Hope Powell’s side, who finished 2019 with a 5-0 defeat away at Manchester City, but the Reds on the other hand enjoyed some pleasing news over the festive period in the signing of Rachel Furness.
The former Reading striker spent the first half of the season on loan at Tottenham and is sure to improve Liverpool’s dismal goal-scoring form, Vicky Jepson’s side having only mustered three in ten games so far.
Arsenal v Birmingham
Sunday, 2pm, Borehamwood – live on the FA player
Can anyone stop Arsenal?
The Gunners have been outstanding in the first half of the Women’s Super League season, winning nine of their ten games and scoring 29 goals in the process.
📊 We've now won each of our last nine @BarclaysFAWSL home fixtures…— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 2, 2020
✅ 3-0 v Yeovil Town
✅ 4-0 v Bristol City
✅ 2-1 v Everton
✅ 1-0 v Man City
✅ 2-1 v West Ham
✅ 4-0 v Brighton
✅ 1-0 v Man City
✅ 11-1 v Bristol City
✅ 1-0 v Liverpool
Breaking records for fun 😏 pic.twitter.com/e0dusgAbOQ
After winning the WSL title at the Amex in April, the Gunners are once again proving that they are the team to beat this season – and it’s going to take some force to stop them.
If Birmingham manage it on Sunday, it would be quite the upset. Marta Tejedor’s Blues sit ninth with just two wins from eight, struggling to re-adjust after losing star players Ellen White, Aoife Mannion and Hayley Ladd to the Manchester clubs in the summer.
An Arsenal win may not be guaranteed, but among the more-than-likely scenarios would be a goal from Vivianne Miedema, the Dutch superstar having already scored 14 and assisted seven this campaign.
West Ham v Everton
Sunday, 3pm, Rush Green Stadium – live on the FA player
The final fixture of the weekend sees West Ham welcome Everton to Rush Green as the Hammers aim to take their pre-Christmas into the New Year.
Two late free-kicks from Katharina Baunach steered West Ham to a comeback win over Manchester United in early December, but they won’t want to be taking such risks if they want to defeat Everton, who sit in fifth.
Both sides have made reinforcements over the break, with the Hammers announcing the signing of England U20 international Grace Fisk, while England U21 goalkeeper Sandy MacIver joins the Toffees.
To follow the action, buy tickets and sign-up for The FA Player’s live Barclays FA Women’s Super League coverage visit womenscompetitions.thefa.com