Five WSL talking points as title race heats up

    Chelsea beat Tottenham 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in November
    Venue: Brisbane Road, London Date: Sunday, 5 February, 12:30 GMT
    Coverage: Live coverage from 12:15 GMT on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website & app

    Things are getting tight at the top and bottom of the Women’s Super League as we get ready for another weekend of tantalising action.

    Can one of the bottom sides put a spanner in the works for a title contender? Will Alessia Russo prove her worth? And who will come out on top in the battle of the strikers?

    Here are five things to look out for.

    Will Russo shake off transfer saga?

    Alessia Russo
    Alessia Russo was part of the England squad that won the European Championship last summer

    It will be interesting to see how Manchester United forward Russo performs this weekend after Arsenal submitted two world-record bids for her before the transfer deadline.

    United rejected both and on Wednesday manager Marc Skinner said he was “very hopeful” Russo will sign a new contract.

    “That’s how the growth [of he women’s game] is going,” said Everton manager Brian Sorensen, whose side play United on Sunday.

    “The interest of it and the big clubs that are investing a lot can make [world-record bids]. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen but it’s always fun. There was so much interaction around it and it helps grow the game.”

    “It’s the way the women’s game is going, even if the Russo deal didn’t happen,” added West Ham manager Paul Konchesky, whose side could do the Red Devils are huge favour by beating Arsenal on Sunday.

    “It’s only going to go one way at the moment and that’s through the roof. It will be tough for teams like ours to stay with it.”

    United are top of the WSL, three points ahead of third-placed Arsenal and level on points with Chelsea.

    A London derby double

    Chelsea celebrate
    Chelsea have won 100% of their Barclays WSL games against Spurs

    All eyes are on the capital on Sunday for two huge London derbies with Tottenham hosting Chelsea live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website, followed by Arsenal’s trip to West Ham.

    Chelsea have lost just one of their last 23 WSL London derbies (W18, D4), a 3-2 defeat against Arsenal in September 2021.

    Spurs, meanwhile, come into the fixture in atrocious form, tasting defeat in their past five in the league by an aggregate score of 11-1, their longest ever losing run in the competition.

    “We have nothing to lose,” said Tottenham head coach Rehanne Skinner.

    “We’re in a space where we need to improve results, not just performances, so we will give it everything and see if we can start to turn around that perception of points against these types of teams.”

    West Ham won their last WSL London derby, beating Spurs in December. Before that, they’d won just one out of 23 games against fellow London opposition (D3, L19).

    But they’ll be up against it when Arsenal come to town. The Gunners are on an eight-match winning streak away from home.

    Tight in top-scorer battle

    Khadija Shaw and Rachel Daly stats

    Nobody can stop Manchester City’s Khadji Shaw and Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly at the moment with both players leading the top of the WSL’s scoring chart with nine goals in 11 games.

    Both were on fire in the FA Cup last week too with Shaw grabbing a hat-trick against Sheffield United and Daly netting four against Fylde.

    “We have got some incredibly talented players, I would argue some of the best in the country,” said Villa’s manager Carla Ward.

    “We’re imagining teams will try and frustrate us and shut up shop.”

    On Saturday, City face bottom club Leicester and Villa take on strugglers Brighton. The Seagulls have the worst defensive record in the league while Leicester’s is the third leakiest. Will Shaw and Daly cash in?

    Relegation woes, but Foxes climbing

    Lowly Leicester City a team in form in January, beating relegation rivals Brighton 3-0, putting up a good performance against Manchester City in a 1-0 loss in the league cup and only just losing to Reading on penalties last week in the FA Cup.

    “Our performances are heading in the right direction,” said their boss Willie Kirk.

    “I think we’re in a good place. If you look at the games since the break, we are really happy with how we are as a team going into a really important period.”

    This weekend their relegation rivals will be looking over their shoulders.

    “It’s a marathon not a sprint,” said Tottenham boss Skinner, whose side are just six points ahead of Leicester.

    “I never got carried away while we were sitting in those Champions League spots either. It’s part of the process.”

    Reading are also out of form having lost their past three league matches and are four points above Leicester but have played two games more.

    Before their match with Liverpool on Sunday manager Kelly Chambers said: “I think if it was just us and Leicester at the bottom, then perhaps we’d be keeping one eye on them, but there are so many teams that are in and around us, with results that can go either way on any day.”

    Past results count for nothing

    On paper this weekend’s fixtures look a little one-sided.

    Leicester have lost all three of their WSL matches against Manchester City, Liverpool have won none of their last six league games with Reading, Everton have never defeated Manchester United in the WSL and Spurs have lost their six league meetings with Chelsea.

    “We’ve got to leave all the past games behind,” said West Ham manager Konchesky whose side have lost all eight of their top-flight matches with Sunday’s opponents Arsenal.

    While Leicester’s boss Kirk added: “The pressure is all on our opponent.

    “But we also do put some pressure on ourselves to perform well in front of our home fans at King Power. We’re focused on us.”

    Kirk has lost all 11 of his WSL games against Manchester City, seeing his former teams Bristol City and Everton score just four goals while conceding 37.

    Still, football is played on grass, not on paper.

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