WSL Preview: Arsenal and Chelsea to start with victories

Emma Hayes' Chelsea start their title defence this weekend
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes

The WSL gets underway this weekend with Chelsea's trip to Manchester United the pick of the games. Tim Stillman expects Emma Hayes' side to scrap for a 1-0 win over United for the third consecutive occasion.

"United are stubborn opposition and Chelsea were made to work very hard for a pair of 1-0 victories in the team’s encounters last season."

The WSL got underway this weekend with Manchester City winning 2-0 at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon. There are five more fixtures on Sunday, starting with Arsenal's home game against Reading at 12.30pm (live on BBC Online and the red button in the UK). The Gunners have a physical advantage over the Royals having played a belated Champions League quarter-final against PSG a fortnight ago.

Reading, on the other hand, have not played competitively since February and have experienced a large turnover of players in their squad this summer. Arsenal defeated Reading 3-0 the last time the teams met in the WSL and you can get 11/2 on them to repeat that score on Sunday. Arsenal are currently on a streak of scoring in 25 successive games and of not dropping points to any team other than Chelsea or Manchester City since April 2018.

Spurs to start with a draw but big-spending Toffees can win big

Spurs did the double over West Ham last season with Tottenham finishing one place above the Irons in the final table. The two teams are close in quality but I expect this to be a tight, low-key affair. The smart money is on a draw here and you can get 5/1 on 1-1. West Ham have added England forward Rachel Daly on loan this summer and if you fancy her to make the difference between the teams then the draw at half-time and West Ham to win at full-time can be backed at 15/2.

Everton lost Chloe Kelly to Manchester City this summer but spent big to replace her with France international Valerie Gauvin. Everton will expect to challenge the WSL's big three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City this season whereas Bristol City will again be happy with survival having narrowly stayed up in 2019-20. The Toffees have added other quality forwards like Nicoline Sorensen and Hayley Raso, 3-0 to Everton is worth a punt at 11/1.

Narrow wins for Brighton and Chelsea

Brighton versus Birmingham is likely to be an attritional game. Hope Powell's side are set up to frustrate and hit teams on the counter, while this Birmingham side has lots of new players and a new manager to boot, so they are likely to need a few games to hit top speed. I fancy the Seagulls to pinch this 1-0 at 11/2.

The big game of the weekend sees defending champions Chelsea travel to Casey Stoney's Manchester United with new signing Pernille Harder in tow. United are stubborn opposition and Chelsea were made to work very hard for a pair of 1-0 victories in the team's encounters last season. I think a 0-0 draw is worth a look given the generous 10/1 odds, with Chelsea accommodating a few new signings in the spine of their team, however, a narrow Chelsea win seems most likely here - another Chelsea 1-0 victory at 6/1 would be my suggested bet.

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