WSL 1 - Week 11 Preview: Manchester City look to increase the gap at the top of the table

Chelsea will be hoping to close the gap on leaders Manchester City, whilst Birmingham look to go 13 games unbeaten.

WSL 1 - Week 11 Preview: Manchester City look to increase the gap at the top of the table
Photo: VAVEL UK | Jonny Walsh

The Rio Olympics has now reached it's conclusion and our focus returns to the FA Women's Super League, with another exciting round of WSL 1 fixtures to look forward to this week.

Liverpool - Doncaster Belles

The first fixture of the week takes place at the Select Security Stadium. Doncaster Belles head to Merseyside to take on a Liverpool side looking to get back to winning ways after a quarter-final loss to Birmingham City sent them crashing out of the FA WSL Continental Cup.

The Belles, who have struggled in the early stages of their inaugural season in the WSL 1, are still searching for their first points of the campaign and they will also be at a loss this weekend due to the absence of Maz Pacheco. The England under-19 defender is currently on loan from the Reds and will be ineligible to face her parent club.

Emma Coates' side currently prop up the bottom of the table, but the Belles season is not over as they have four games in hand over eighth-placed Sunderland, who lie six points above their rivals. Relegation is lurking for Doncaster - however a strong finish to their WSL 1 campaign could save their future in the top flight. The last placed Belles will not only have to score more goals but will also need to begin to get points on the board if they are to retain their place in WSL 1.

Liverpool are in a much more comfortable position in fifth place, four points behind Birmingham City with a game in hand.

Doncaster Rovers Belles team talk against Manchester City | Photo: Getty Images
Doncaster Rovers Belles team talk against Manchester City | Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City - Reading

Manchester City and Reading last met in the league two weeks ago. City put in a gritty performance that evening to come away with a 2-1 victory over the resilient Royals.

The league leaders dominated possession for large periods of play at Adams Park and squandered numerous opportunities to put the win out of sight. Izzy Christiansen and Toni Duggan eventually got the goals for the Sky Blues; a late scare courtesy of a Lauren Bruton penalty in the closing minutes was not enough to share the spoils with the Manchester team.

The Royals have arguably the toughest opponents this week. Nick Cushing's team are yet to lose a league fixture in this campaign and are victorious in their last four matches. City are ten points clear of second-placed Chelsea, though the London outfit have two games in hand.

Kelly Chambers will be hoping to come away from the Academy Stadium with a share of the points this weekend considering her team teeter ever closer to the relegation spots.

Manchester City versus Reading, will be the first match of a double bill planned at the Etihad Campus on Sunday - with the men playing West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium directly after the women's game. There is hope that this approach can boast ticket sales for the women's team, drawing more people in to the Academy Stadium and will hopefully become a regular feature in the coming months.

Birmingham City - Chelsea

Chelsea travel to Solihull this weekend to face a Birmingham City side who are unbeaten in their last twelve games. City may have played two more games than the Blues, but a victory over them on Sunday could see Birmingham leap frog Chelsea into second place.

The Londoners will face a tough test against Birmingham's sturdy defence. City have been resiliant this season - with only league leaders Manchester City conceding fewer goals than the fourth placed team.

Chelsea will be hoping to get their title race back on track after slipping up in fixtures against both Arsenal and Birmingham. They only picked up a point a piece against both the middle table teams, though they looked to be back on track with a resounding victory over Doncaster Belles last time out. 

Emma Hayes' side can only hope that Manchester City have a dodgy spell coming in to the next round of fixtures, as they currently sit ten points behind their opposition.

Notts County - Arsenal

Notts County host an Arsenal side at Meadow Lane this weekend who will be looking for a victory in order to close the gap on run away league leaders Manchester City.

City are currently head of the pack with 12 points separating them and Arsenal in third place. The Gunners had something of a resurgence after their FA Women's Cup win, even going on a run of seven games unbeaten. However, that run ended in their last fixture with a defeat to Liverpool - a 20-yard free kick from Caroline Weir sealed the three points for the Reds and left more catching up to do for Arsenal.

Caroline Weir celebrates her winner against Arsenal | Photo: Getty Images
Caroline Weir celebrates her winner against Arsenal. | Photo: Getty Images

The Lady Pies currently sit in sixth place, marginally close to the bottom of the table with just three points between them and seventh placed Reading.

The two teams have met three times this season, with Rick Passmoor's side missing out on all three occasions. A particularly tough result was the FA Cup defeat to the Gunners, which sent County crashing out at the quarter final stage on penalties.

Pedro Martineaz Losa will no doubt be hoping his team can take inspiration from Josephine Henning's success in Rio. The Arsenal defender claimed the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of the victorious Germany squad, who defeated Sweden in the final at the Maracanã.