WSL Tipsheet: Nothing to separate champions Arsenal and Manchester City

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Tim Stillman previews some of this weekend's WSL games, including the clash between last season's champions Arsenal and runners-up Manchester City...

"The ball is in Arsenal’s court and they have won this fixture in the last two seasons. However, Vivianne Miedema is a doubt with a calf injury and her potential absence would represent a hammer blow for Arsenal."

Manchester United v Reading
Sunday October 27 12.30pm
Live on FA Player and BBCi

Manchester United and Reading are closely matched...

United forced Manchester City and Arsenal to fight and claw their way to narrow 1-0 victories in their opening two WSL games, but since then, Casey Stoney's side have gone from strength to strength, defeating Liverpool and Tottenham without conceding and also coming out on top in a Manchester derby in the Conti Cup last weekend.

Stoney was a world class centre-half in her day, so her teams were always going to be organised and difficult to beat, as three consecutive clean sheets attests. However, Reading boast one of the division's in-form players in veteran Fara Williams. Williams delivered three assists from set-pieces against Everton a fortnight ago and scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Lewes last week.

Reading have been conceding goals...

Williams shooting from long range and set-piece delivery have always set her apart in the women's game, she will be Stoney's primary focus and United will be instructed not to concede free-kicks in their own half. But in Lauren James, the home side have one of the teenage prodigies of women's football. James has been sensational in midfield alongside Dutch international Jackie Groenen.

But it's Leah Galton who has really caught the eye with her buccaneering raids down the left-flank- she is providing silver service for striker Jane Ross. Given that Reading have conceded six goals in their last two games to lowly Everton and Championship side Lewes, I expect United to continue their winning run on Sunday.

United's attacking quality to overpower a weak Reading defence...

For the time being, United aspire to be in Reading's section of the league, just outside of the top 3. But with players like James, Galton and Groenen, they have the edge on the Royals in quality. I think United's clean sheet run might be ended by Fara Williams, but I expect The Red Devils to have fun with a porous Reading defence.

Recommended Bet: Back Manchester United to win at 8/13

Arsenal v Manchester City
Sunday October 27, 2.30pm
Live on BT Sport

Arsenal v Manchester City is a clash of the titans...

Last season's title winners against last season's runners-up and League and FA Cup winners. The teams played three times last season- City won at home, Arsenal won at home, while the League Cup Final, played at Bramall Lane, finished 0-0 with City winning on penalties. There is a cigarette paper between the teams in terms of quality.

City lost centre-half Aoife Mannion to a knee injury this week, while defensive midfielder Kiera Walsh is suspended after her red card in the defeat to United last week. Ellen White ought to be fit, but only from the bench. She hasn't played since the World Cup due to a knee injury. Meanwhile, City have a tough Champions League away tie at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, while the Gunners play at home to Slavia in Thursday, whom they already lead 5-2 from the first leg.

Arsenal might just have the edge...

The ball is in Arsenal's court and they have won this fixture in the last two seasons. However, Vivianne Miedema is a doubt with a calf injury and her potential absence would represent a hammer blow for Arsenal. City tend to be a very strong team defensively, but have key defensive cogs missing. For the Gunners to not have their elite centre-forward would surrender any perceived advantage there.

Like any top of the table clash, Arsenal v City will be tight and nervy. But with City's injury situation and Arsenal boasting attacking midfield talent like Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Beth Mead and Danielle van de Donk, I am tipping the Gunners to edge this 2-1. It is a must-win game for them after their defeat to Chelsea a fortnight ago, while City have taken maximum points from their WSL games thus far.

Recommended bet: Back Arsenal to win at 6/5

Tim Stillman,

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