Top two clash and new boss at Brighton – talking points ahead of WSL resumption

The Women’s Super League returns this weekend after a month-long winter break.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key talking points as the action resumes.

Title tussle at the Emirates

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The standout in the round of fixtures getting things back under way is a blockbuster showdown between the league’s top two. Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday lying three points behind Emma Hayes’ champions, with a game in hand. Jonas Eidevall’s Gunners, heading into the second part of the season with both Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema sidelined by ACL injuries, have new faces in Netherlands international Victoria Pelova and Denmark’s Kathrine Kuhl, and have also this month recalled Brazil winger Gio from Everton.

Mancunian chasing pack

Manchester United’s Ona Batlle (left) and Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp battle for the ball (Tim Goode/PA).
Manchester United and Manchester City drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium in their last WSL game before Christmas (Tim Goode/PA).

The two clubs immediately behind that pair concluded their WSL games for 2022 by taking a point apiece from a derby meeting as Manchester United and Manchester City drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium. United, who have two points fewer than Arsenal and three more than City as they look to secure Champions League football for the first time, return with another clash against north-west neighbours, hosting Liverpool on Sunday. City, on the same day, travel to a West Ham outfit that are currently fifth in the table, four points behind them having played a game more.

New starts for Lionesses

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The resumption begins with a match on Saturday that is set to see some England players make debuts after January moves. Aston Villa entertain Tottenham having brought in Jordan Nobbs from Arsenal, as well as fellow midfielder Lucy Staniforth from Manchester United. Spurs have made the most eye-catching signing of the window so far by bringing in forward Bethany England from Chelsea, for what is reported to be record fee between WSL clubs.

Scheuer in at Brighton

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There has also been a managerial change since the last matches before the break – second-bottom Brighton have a new boss, with Jens Scheuer being appointed as successor to Hope Powell. The German’s first game at the helm is at Leicester, the side lying below them, still without a point to their name this term after nine games. If the Foxes, with Willie Kirk in charge since November following Lydia Bedford’s departure, can win at the King Power Stadium on Sunday, it will reduce the gap between the sides to four points.

Everton look to pick up where they left off

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The weekend’s other game is Sunday’s contest between Everton and Reading – who have the same amount of points as Brighton – at Walton Hall Park. The sixth-placed Toffees’ last league outing, the final WSL match before Christmas, saw them deliver what boss Brian Sorensen has rated as their best performance since he took charge last summer, a 3-0 victory at Tottenham. The Dane said: “I think that should be our benchmark and then improve from there, that’s what we want to see.”