WSL 1 - Week 3 Preview: familiar fixtures across the board
Photo: VAVEL UK

Three weeks in and WSL 1 Spring Series is well underway, for most clubs. Reading, Bristol City, Yeovil Town and Liverpool are all gearing up to play their third fixture of the season.

However, the unfortunate event of Notts County folding subsequently cancelled Arsenal's first game, so they will host their first home game just days after their draw against. Additionally, Manchester City's semi-final run in the UEFA Women's Champion's League means that they will play their first game of the spring tournament, while Chelsea and Birmingham City will also play their second.

On that note, the first midweek battles have certainly provided some interesting match ups.

Manchester City vs Birmingham City

The two Cities have been very familiar with each other as of late. Having played each other in the 2016 Continental Cup final, with the Citizens coming out on top, the two teams will spar again at Wembley in the Women's FA Cup final. So this match is being labelled as a dress rehearsal.

Obviously having fielded their strongest side at the weekend, this match could see Nick Cushing give younger players a chance in the starting line up, such as Georgia Stanway who came on as a substitute against Olympique Lyonnais. Irrespective of age, Stanway's presence can be menacing for the most solid defensive lines. Even if Cushing opts for more experience, the Citizen's options are positive with number nine Toni Duggan looking creative in both legs of the Champion's League.

In the recent clashes between the two, goal scoring has been limited as both tend. For Birmingham this could be changed as in the off-season Marc Skinner enlisted the finesse of Ellen White, who has been on fine form for England. White has a point to prove as she has received a call up for the European Championships. There is no denying the Blues' defensive strength, though, with PFA Young Player of the Year Jess Carter and Aoife Mannion on the case.

While this is an opportunity for both sides to guage the level of competition ahead of the big final on the 13th May, the question is how the two teams will approach it? Seeing as the FA Cup is weighted heavier in importance than the Spring Series, the managers could either keep their tactics for the big day under wraps or use this as trial and error.

Yeovil Town vs Bristol City

Both teams have well and truly been thrown in the deep end as they played their first couple, Yeovil taking a hammering from Liverpool and Chelsea and Bristol being beat considerably by Reading at a scoreline of 3-1. This fixture offers some welcome familiarity to both. Having raced against each other to the title, a race that Yeovil were victorious in, both teams know each other well.

When looking at the last two meetings from the two teams it paints a picture of the significance of this game. Last May the Lady Glovers took a comfortable 2-0 victory, while the other match in last season ended in a 3-2 victory for Bristol. This is a real chance for either side to instill some confidence for the tricky road ahead as they match up against teams with more experience.

However, Yeovil Town are at a disadvantage. During the 6-0 defeat to Chelsea, keeper Charlotte Haynes suffered a broken hand which has ruled her out of the entire Spring Series.

Reading vs Chelsea

Chelsea were certainly active in the transfer window and it has been paying dividends. Crystal Dunn, Ramona Bachmann and Erin Cuthbert who were signed ahead of the Spring Series have been finding the back of the net throughout pre-season, the cup run and now into league.

While positive on the goal scoring front, are without multiple defensive players through injury. For instance, first and second choice keepers Hedvig Lindahl and Rebecca Spencer are not available due to injury. While this has not proved to be an issue against newly promoted Yeovil, perhaps teams more versed in the top flight could expose this.

They are not alone in transfer activity, though, as Reading have recently added to their squad with Jo Potter, Jade Moore and Kirsty Linnett - who are all eligible to play this match. The experience that comes with, who have all played together prior to being teammates at Notts County, will surely be invaluable to the side who struggled last season.

Arsenal vs Liverpool

Liverpool have had a very positive to the start of their Spring Series, flying to the top of the league with two wins and eight goals scored. While the home side of this fixture, Arsenal, were held to a frustrating, goalless draw by an organised Sunderland in their opener.

The return of Alex Greenwood, who suffered serious ankle ligament damage, has restored a creative force to Liverpool's midfield. While Tash Harding has been in amongst the goals, scoring three in just four games. The goals are being shared out mind, with Katie Zelem also looking to be in fine form and up for the challenge of the Spring Series. These names could be valuable against a Arsenal side who looked troubled at times against the Lady Black Cats.

The last meeting between the two clubs came at the end of the 2016 season in an eight goal thriller, which Arsenal were on the winning end of at 5-2. Since then, Pedro Martinez Losa brought in some big names before the Spring Series, such as USWNT legend Heather O'Reilly and former Arsenal player Kim Little. Although, the manager could realistically face the same problem as last season in not knowing his strongest side.

This game could go either way. Another high scoring thriller especially given Liverpool's goal tally so far, or a more disciplined battle between the two well matched sides.

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