WSL 1 - Week 12 Preview: Chelsea hoping to make ground on Manchester City
Chelsea and Sunderland are in action at different ends of the table in week 12 of the WSL | Photo: VAVEL UK

WSL 1 - Week 12 Preview: Chelsea hoping to make ground on Manchester City

Six teams are in action on Thursday in WSL 1 as Chelsea look to close the gap on leaders Man City whilst a relegation battle is set to take place.

Matt Dawson

The WSL is starting to get to the business end of the season now with only a few games remaining for most sides now.

Manchester City look the favourites to win the title after finishing as runners-up last year but Chelsea, who have two games in hand including one this week, will be doing all they can to try and catch City in their bid to win back to back WSL 1 championships. 

The Blues currently sit ten points off the pace though, so it is looking increasingly likely that Man City will win their first WSL crown come the end of the season. 

Nonetheless there could be more drama left in this season with City having to play Arsenal and Chelsea again before the season is up. It will be far from straight forward but with the league leaders unbeaten this season they will be confident. 

It's also all still to play for at the bottom of the table, with Reading, Sunderland and Doncaster all in action on Thursday as they bid to beat the drop.

Chelsea need to keep winning

If Chelsea are to have any chance of going back to back then they'll have to win all of their remaining games, and by beating Notts County this week that would be a good start in their pursuit for another WSL title. 

The two sides have yet to play each other this season, and will meet again in their final fixture of the campaign where Chelsea may or may not still have something to still play for. This game however remains vitally important for Emma Hayes' players going forward. 

After suffering a massive blow in their title chances last month against Arsenal, the Blues have bounced back to show just how good they are and come into the game with the Lady Pies off the back of two 4-0 victories, over both Doncaster Belles and then Birmingham last weekend.

Eni Aluko has began to find some brilliant form of late, scoring three in her last two outings, whilst Ji has also regained some confidence and form just at the right time. 

Aluko in action against Doncaster Belles | Photo: VAVEL's Chloe Leadbeater
Aluko in action against Doncaster Belles | Photo: VAVEL's Chloe Leadbeater

For County however it has been a different story and the game at Chelsea signals yet another tough fixture for them as they haven't won in six games in all competitions, a run that stretches back to early July. Excusing a 1-1 draw with Reading, they have had to face Arsenal three times and also Liverpool and Manchester City in the past month and a half. 

Their last game was a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal at the weekend and therefore come into this game against Chelsea on Thursday evening in pretty bad form. It should be more or less routine then for the hosts at Staines as they look to try and still salvage something from a season that is looking likely that it will end without silverware. 

Liverpool hoping to continue excellent league form

If you look past Liverpool's Continental Cup exit after extra-time to Birmingham recently, their form of late has been superb, especially in the league. Their performances away from home have been improving as the season has gone on, and after a 0-0 draw with City and an amazing win over Arsenal on the road in their previous two league away outings, it has signalled that they may be getting back to their best. 

Tash Harding's goal sealed a 1-0 win over Donny Belles at the weekend and with a win on Thursday over Reading, they will leap-frog Birmingham into fourth position. 

Reading haven't won a single game in the WSL this season, after drawing a league high six games to sit on an equal amount of points. Like Notts County, they have had a tough run of games recently, playing Manchester City in each of their last two matches and now having to face an in-form Liverpool side. 

It will be another hard test for Thursday's hosts at Adams Park but they will still be hoping that they can avoid relegation to WSL 2.

The Liverpool players celebrating Harding's goal last weekend | Photo: WSL
The Liverpool players celebrating Harding's goal last weekend | Photo: WSL

Relegation six pointer

With just 13 goals scored and 58 conceded between them in the WSL this season, Doncaster Belles and Sunderland sit in the bottom two places in the league and face each other on Thursday night in what will be a massive relegation clash. 

Sunderland have won just once in the league this season, a 4-0 victory over their opposition tomorrow. Doncaster will be keen on revenge then, and what better game to do it than in a six pointer at the foot of the table. 

The hosts at the Keepmoat on Thursday currently have three games in hand over Sunderland, something that could prove key come the end of the season. However a win over the Lady Black Cats would surely give the Belles hope that they can perform a miracle and stay up despite losing every single one of their WSL 1 fixtures in 2016.

It would take something special for them to beat the drop but by beating Sunderland it would be a huge step to avoiding relegation.

For Sunderland though, winning would also be significant as it would lift them above Reading, providing they fail to beat Liverpool, and out of the bottom two in what is a very intriguing week in the WSL.