WSL 1 - Week Nine Preview - Arsenal and Chelsea look to close the gap on leaders City

Notts County will look to upset Manchester City's unbeaten run at Meadow Lane on Sunday, whilst the other title contenders will be looking to over take them at the top.

WSL 1 - Week Nine Preview - Arsenal and Chelsea look to close the gap on leaders City
Photo: VAVEL UK/ Jonny Walsh

There's plenty of action in the WSL 1 this week as City look to extend their lead at the top, whilst the teams below them look to close the gap on the title-chasers. At the other end of the table, Reading and Doncaster Rovers Belles are still looking for their first league wins of the season.

Sunderland - Arsenal

The weekend's first fixture takes place at the Hetton Centre between struggling Sunderland and the in-form Arsenal Ladies.

The Gunners will be looking to put the pressure on league leaders Manchester City once again on Sunday, after they closed the gap on the front runners to just three points last weekend - with a 2-1 victory over fellow title contenders Chelsea.

Pedro Martinez Losa's side have been rejuvenated since the mid-season break, spurred on by their FA Cup success in May. Arsenal have claimed ten points from their last four matches and will hope this impressive run can help the Gunners secure their first league title since winning the WSL 1 back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.

The Lady Black Cats have had a tough start to their second season in the top flight, they currently sit in seventh place in the table just two points above fellow strugglers Reading, who have three games in hand over their rivals.

And, to make matters worse Sunderland have conceded 12 goals in two games against Arsenal this season. The Gunners were triumphant in April's SSE Women's FA Cup semi-final, putting seven past this weekend's opponents. It won't get any easier for Sunderland this time around, as Daniella Van de Donk, the hat-trick hero in that match, is in fine form and has netted two goals in her last two games.

The FA Cup semi-final wasn't the northerners only heavy defeat to the Gunners this season, as they also succumbed to a 5-1 defeat when the teams met in the league in June. Sunderland will be hoping they can pull off an upset over Arsenal this weekend and put some well needed points on the board.

Chelsea - Doncaster Rovers Belles

Chelsea will be looking to get back to winning ways against Doncaster this weekend after enduring a difficult spell of late, which sees the 2015 WSL 1 champions go three games without a victory.

Their most recent defeat came against Arsenal ladies last weekend, where they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Wheatsheaf Park. The loss for the Blues means they retain second place in the table, a point behind leaders Manchester City, but the Gunners close in to two points behind them.

Hannah Blundell against Sunderland | Photo: Empics Sport
Chelsea's Hannah Blundell against Sunderland in the FA WSL | Photo: Empics Sport

This match will mark the third time these sides have met this season and the Belles will yet again be looking for their first league win of the campaign. Emma Coates' side marked their first win of the season in the Contintental Cup earlier this month, recording a 2-1 victory over Sunderland. 

Chelsea will be without their skipper Katie Chapman due to suspension, but the team do boast two former Belles in the form of Bethany England and Millie Bright who are both likely to feature against their former side.

With the arrivals of new additions Maz PachecoMarta Bakowska-Mathews and Christie Murray, alongside the return of the injury-plagued Sue Smith, Doncaster will be hoping for an inspired display against the Blues this weekend.

Reading - Birmingham City

Birmingham, who are now just four points behind Manchester City, head to Adams Park this weekend looking to extend their inspired run of eight games without defeat.

The Blues will have no shame in praising their backline for their recent set of results. City have conceded just one goal in 804 minutes of open play and Reading will have to put on an impressive display on Sunday to break down one of the toughest defences in the Womens Super League.

There was little to seperate the teams in their last meeting, in which the two sides played out a goalless draw at Solihull Moors in May. This is evident of the struggles Birmingham have had at the other end of the pitch, scoring only six goals in 10 WSL matches this season. Reading, alike to Doncaster Rovers Belles, are also searching for their first league win of the season.

Notts County - Manchester City

Notts County host league leaders Manchester City at Meadow Lane this weekend hoping to become the first team to beat the promotion-chasers this season.

The Sky Blues have dropped just four points in the league, which both came in consecutive draws against Liverpool, and have conceded just one goal in eight games in this campaign. 

However, only an injury-time Steph Houghton free-kick could seperate the teams in the reverse fixture in the opening game of the season and Lady Pies striker Jess Clarke believes her side can become the first team to beat City this year.

The Notts County forward told the club's official website: “It’s important to not let the fact that City are undefeated affect us, anything can happen on the day and the incentive to be the team who gets that first win against them gives you an extra lift."

Clarke continued, she said: "When we played against them earlier in the season we felt a little hard done by. Conceding in the final minute was hard to take, so we’ve got a lot to prove heading into Sunday."