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May 26, 2024

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Women’s Super League: Key Discussion Points, Including the Comeback of Two Prominent Strikers

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Although the current Women’s Super League season is in its early stages, the second round of matches includes two fixtures that could have a significant impact on the title race as the season progresses.

In the initial encounter between two traditional top-four teams, Manchester United and Arsenal played to a 2-2 draw on Friday.

Reigning champions Chelsea are away to Manchester City at noon on Sunday.

Here are the main talking points ahead of Sunday’s game.

Chelsea and Man City started the season in typical winning fashion last weekend, although both achieved their victories without their top scorers from the last campaign.

Sam Kerr missed the Blues’ 2-1 win over Tottenham as she continued her recovery from the calf injury that troubled the Australian during the Women’s World Cup.

“She’s back in full training,” said manager Emma Hayes. “For Sam, she’s never perfect, she always wants a little bit more, but she’s available for selection.”

City boss Gareth Taylor confirmed that Khadija Shaw, who scored 20 league goals last season, was “in contention” to play.

His side created a fortress at home last season, going unbeaten in the league at the Academy Stadium – which has been renamed the Joie Stadium – a run which included a 2-0 win over Chelsea in March.

Players still gelling
Manchester United manager Marc Skinner expressed his surprise at how well his team played in their 2-1 victory at Aston Villa last week, considering how little time they had spent together – and he is not the only boss who does not expect to see the best of his team any time soon.

Leicester manager Willie Kirk, whose side began with a 4-2 win at newly-promoted Bristol City, also saw a high turnover of players during the summer.

“I think we’re operating at about 60%,” he said. “It will probably be second half of the season before you see the best of us.

“But there are really encouraging signs. Pre-season has been good, the Bristol game was good. So it’s still building, it’s still progress, and we look forward to trying to take that into Everton [on Sunday].”

Having also won their final game of last season, Leicester are looking to win three WSL matches in a row for the first time.

Liverpool keeping ‘feet on ground’
Liverpool are getting a reputation for beginning their season with a huge upset.

Last season it was at home to Chelsea – this time, arguably even more impressively, it came away to Arsenal in front of a record WSL crowd at Emirates Stadium.

But the question is, can they build on that result? In 2022-23, they followed their opening victory with five consecutive league defeats and did not win again until December.

“It was a good team performance, [but] it was only the start,” said Reds manager Matt Beard. “It’s a great start for us but we’ve got to make sure we keep our feet on the ground and keep moving forward.”

They come up against an Aston Villa side still reeling after agonisingly losing to a stoppage-time winner from Manchester United last Sunday and manager Carla Ward is expecting another difficult challenge.

“Beardy’s a top coach and a top man,” she said. “He’ll have them playing the right way, it’s going to be tough.

“We’re under no illusions. That message has been loud and clear to everybody.”

Women’s Super League: Key Discussion Points, Including the Comeback of Two Prominent Strikers

More to come from Brighton?
Brighton made an impressive start with their 2-1 victory at Everton and their 36-year-old American head coach Melissa Phillips is already winning plaudits from her contemporaries.

“Brighton have recruited really well,” said Chelsea boss Hayes. “They’ve got a good young manager.”

The former London City Lionesses boss joined the club in March and helped the Seagulls to avoid relegation, but now wants her side to win consecutive league games for the first time since March 2022 – a run of 30 games – when they host West Ham on Sunday.

“We wanted to come into the [Everton] game full of belief in each other and full of belief in what we were going after, and I think that was on full display with the squad,” said Phillips.

“There was a real sense of hunting the ball back, in it together. It’s an exciting start but we know we’ll only be as good as our next performance.”

Duggan’s return after giving birth

Everton’s start to the season may not have gone to plan with defeat at home to Brighton on the opening day but they were boosted by the return of former England player Toni Duggan in the final minutes of that match.

The 32-year-old gave birth to her daughter Luella in March and made her first appearance for the Toffees in more than a year.

Manager Brian Sorensen said injuries meant her return came sooner than he had planned, but he is looking forward to seeing more of her in the coming weeks.

“We can’t wait to get Toni more and more ready for the games,” he said.

“She has performed exceptionally well in training this week. Her chances of being considered are increasing, but she still needs some more training,” remarked her teammate.

Danish forward Nicoline Sorensen also expressed her happiness and pride, stating, “I was thrilled for her and extremely proud of her. I’m aware of the tremendous effort she’s put in to make a comeback.”

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