WSL 1 Week 1 Preview: Women's Super League 1 returns amidst Notts County folding
WSL 1 Week 1 Preview

WSL 1 Week 1 Preview: Women's Super League 1 returns amidst Notts County folding

The Women's Super League 1 is back this weekend with six teams in action during the opening game week.

Matt Dawson

The WSL 1 returns this weekend as the Spring Series continues after the start of the WSL 2 earlier this month. Eight teams were due to be in action on the opening weekend, but that is now six after the disappointing news on Friday that Notts County Ladies have had to fold due to financial issues.

County were due to face Arsenal at Borehamwood but that game has now been cancelled. News off the pitch is likely to put a dent on the opening week of WSL 1 fixtures, but the players on the field will be hoping to do the women's game justice after this unfortunate set back. 

On Saturday, Bristol City take on Reading before Sunday's games see Birmingham take on Sunderland and Liverpool travel to Yeovil.

Bristol City back in the top division

Bristol are back in WSL 1 after a one year spell in the second tier of the Women's Super League. After being relegated in 2015 they are back now in the top flight after a brilliant promotion campaign last season. They narrowly missed out on the WSL 2 title on goal difference, after finishing on the same points as winners Yeovil. 

Their first game is against a Reading side who won just once in WSL 1 last season, as they finished six points above Doncaster Belles who were relegated. The Royals have bolstered their ranks for the Spring Series with the addition of Dutch captain Mandy van den Berg and they will be hoping she can help them achieve a greater finish than in 2016. 

The additions of Sunderland duo Rachel Furness and Brooke Chaplen will only improve Reading too, whilst eyes will also be on the loan signing of Anissa Lahmari from PSG. Talented goalkeeper Mary Earps, who was recently named in the PFA Team of the Year will meanwhile be in action against her former side on Saturday. 

There is bad news for Bristol going into their first game back in WSL 1 though, as Chelsea loanee Millie Farrow has been ruled out of the opening game of the season with an ACL injury. Farrow suffered from rotten luck with injuries last season but still managed to finish as one of the top scorers in WSL 2. Providing they can get her back fit, she will be pivotal for the newly promoted side in the Spring Series. 

Birmingham looking to build

The Blues finished fourth in the WSL 1 last season, a hugely impressive season as they also got to the final of the Continental Cup, only to lose to Manchester City. They seem like they mean business again this season too, knocking both Arsenal and Chelsea out of the FA Cup to reach the final at Wembley in May. The arrival of PFA Player of the Year nominee Ellen White will only strengthen their squad too. 

Birmingham's first game this season comes against Sunderland who could well find life tough throughout the Spring Series. Key players such as Beth Mead have departed as the club reverted back to part-time over the winter. They also have a new manager in the form of Melanie Reay after Carlton Fairweather left.

The Lady Black Cats finished seventh last season, earning just two wins, and after a difficult pre-season there are fears they will be worse off during the Spring Series. There is no promotion and relegation as the league moves to a winter season later in 2017, so whatever happens they will still be playing in WSL 1 after the summer. 

Tough test for newly promoted Yeovil

Yeovil enter the Spring Series off the back of a title winning campaign which earned them promotion. They do however arrive in WSL 1 with a minimal reputation, and an equally small budget so not a lot should be expected from them just yet. 

Their stand-out performer from last season Sarah Wiltshire, who scored 11 in 12, will be missing for a period after having her first child so they could struggle for goals initially. Yeovil face a difficult task on the opening weekend, as they take on an ever improving Liverpool side who finished fifth in the WSL in 2016.

Caroline Weir will once again be Liverpool's key player after a magnificent season last term. She scored seven goals in the WSL, earning places on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year and for Young Player of the Year.

The Merseyside club could well be dark horses this season and have plenty of potential, especially in attack. The addition of Casey Stoney from Arsenal will improve them defensively too, as they look set to impress once again during the Spring Series.