The WSL Of The Future: Chelsea v Man Utd Match-Up Is No Title Decider

There will remain four contenders for the crown whatever the result on Sunday
08:00, 12 Mar 2023

When was the last time the top two teams in the Women’s Super League came head-to-head in the second half of the season and it didn’t feel like an automatic shoot-out for the title? For too long, the race for silverware has either been the preserve of Arsenal and Chelsea only or – worse still – has ended already.

But when Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Kingsmeadow on Sunday they do so knowing that victory for either side will give no guarantees that the title will immediately follow, with a four-way battle taking place in a season which has offered a glimpse into the future of women’s football in this country.

Man Utd go into the game as the league leaders, but their sole defeat this season came in the reverse fixture at Leigh Sports Village in November and the three-time back-to-back reigning champions will come into the fixture scorned after a shock defeat to Arsenal in last weekend’s Continental Cup final at Selhurst Park.

The Blues are one point behind United with a game in hand, their only defeat coming back on the opening day of the season away to Liverpool in September. Emma Hayes’ side remain most people’s favourites for the title, but even if they were to complete the double over United there would still be plenty up for grabs in the final two months.

And that’s because Manchester City and Arsenal are both lurking still, with both shunning narratives detailing their demise at various points this season. City lost their opening two games of the campaign and were written off as contenders as a result, with their loss of big names like Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh in the summer convincing many that they didn’t have the stocks to overcome the early six-point deficit on the front runners.

But Gareth Taylor has led them to an excellent run which has seen them go unbeaten in 12, winning 10 of those, and a share of the spoils at Kingsmeadow could help to bring City to within a point of the summit with seven games remaining.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s double injury blow before Christmas which saw both Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema suffer season-ending ACL injuries was meant to be the beginning of the end. And when they picked up just two points from an available nine in January and February with only one goal scored from open play, it seemed as though those fears would be realised.

Yet their 3-1 win in last week’s final win over Chelsea proved that there’s plenty of life in Jonas Eidevall’s squad yet, and the Gunners boss will have spent the past week impressing on his players that they still have the tools to transfer that performance level into the league in their final nine matches.

If they beat Reading on Sunday night they could well be just four off the top with a game in hand and with all three title rivals still in their crosshairs between now and the end of May.

So whatever the result at Kingsmeadow, the WSL title will remain far from a foregone conclusion, and that renewed life in the race for silverware can only mean good news for the women’s game. Long may the unpredictable battle continue.


*18+ | BeGambleAware

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