WSL Continental Cup Preview: Hive double header has fans buzzing

The FA WSL Continental Cup kicks off this weekend with a host of clubs looking for success.

WSL Continental Cup Preview: Hive double header has fans buzzing
Arsenal were victorious in last season's Continental Cup | Image Source: Getty Images

The WSL Continental Cup gets underway on Saturday, with a number of clubs searching for silverware away from the league, which recommenced last week after a month break.

Arsenal were last year's winners, and after falling behind in the league once again, they will be hoping that the Cup offers up a timely distraction as they look to add another trophy to the cabinet, after beating Chelsea to the FA Women's Cup earlier in the season.

However the bigger teams won't make it easy for the Gunners to win a fifth Continental Cup, as the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will be vying for improvements in a competition which has seen only City win it aside from Arsenal in its existence. 

One of the key things to note ahead of this year's Continental Cup is the changed format, from what was originally a tournament divided into three groups before advancing to a knock-out stage. This year though sees the group stages scrapped, with the competition being knock-out from the beginning.

The bottom six out of 19 teams played a preliminary round in May, before the main teams were seeded for the last 16, meaning the stronger WSL 1 teams take on weaker opposition, who therefore have home advantage. 

The contenders

Man City are currently flying high in the WSL, and they look good for a first ever title. However the Continental Cup will give them a chance to rotate and rest players ahead of bigger games to come in the League. Despite that, they will be one of the favourites to lift the trophy and face a trip to Aston Villa in the first round. This should be a straight forward win then for Nick Cushing's players, as they look to carry on their excellent run of form. 

Chelsea are desperately trying to catch Man City in the WSL this season, and after a disappointing FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, they will be looking to bounce back and lift more silverware after their Cup and League double in 2015. The Blues take on London Bees in the first round, who were one of the teams to successfully make it through the preliminary round, after a 2-0 win over Watford. Like Man City, it is a game that the visiting team should win, especially after a 5-0 win over Sunderland on Wednesday. 

Arsenal can consider themselves quite unlucky compared to their WSL 1 rivals, as they take on Reading from the same division. Judging by the Gunners record in the Continental Cup you'd be backing them to advance through to the next round despite tougher opposition than City and Chelsea.

In recent years Arsenal's form in the Cup competitions has been significantly better than their league form, and therefore you would expect Pedro Martinez Losa's team to be up there challenging for the Continental Cup once again. 

Will there be more cup glory for Arsenal this season?
Will there be more cup glory for Arsenal this season?

The dark horses

Birmingham City ladies could quite arguably be made dark horses for this years Continental Cup. They currently sit third in the WSL, one point ahead of Arsenal, albeit after playing one more game, but they have been performing above expectations so far this season and could be ones to watch in this competition. They Midlands side on Oxford United in the first round, who overcame Millwall Lionesses in the preliminary round with a 1-0 victory. 

Liverpool currently sit in midtable in the WSL, and they will be another team that could potentially be dark horses in this seasons Continental Cup. They take on WSL 2 promotion hopefuls Everton, in a Merseyside derby in the first round. Liverpool will come into the game off the back of an impressive 1-1 draw against Manchester City last weekend, as Rosie White scored the first goal the league leaders had conceded in the WSL this season. Confidence should be high in the red half of Merseyside then. 

Notts County reached the final of last years competition and therefore will be looking for another cup run in 2016. They currently sit in sixth place in the WSL and take on Yeovil, who sit at the top of WSL 2, so things won't be easy for County despite securing the signings of England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter in the week, after the pair both left Birmingham.

The best of the rest

As for the reminaing fixtures left to be mentioned, relegation threatened WSL 1 sides Doncaster Rovers Belles and Sunderland meet on Saturday, in a game where both teams will potentially look to build confidence in a bid to somehow stay up. 

Sheffield, who sit almost at the foot of WSL 2, came through the Preliminiary round after an impressive 3-1 win over Durham but will face Bristol City, who are at the opposite end of the table to their opponents, in round one.