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Monday, March 20, 2023

Five WSL talking points as Man Utd aim for top

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Arsenal and Manchester City will meet for the second time within 72 hoursIt is rare for goalless draws to be the most interesting results in football – yet two 0-0s in the Women’s Super League last weekend could prove crucial this season.Manchester United were held by Everton, and Arsenal at West Ham, to leave Chelsea in the driving seat to retain their WSL title.In the relegation fight, Leicester remain rooted to the bottom, but Reading and Brighton continue to look nervously over their shoulders – and how much further will Tottenham fall?Here are five things to look forward to this weekend, in the final round of WSL matches until March…You again? (Part One)Having met in the League Cup on Wednesday, Manchester City and Arsenal face off again less than 72 hours later in a game that could be decisive for either’s WSL title ambitions.They both sit five points behind leaders Chelsea – Arsenal with a game in hand – and Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall thinks they could use the 1-0 midweek win to their advantage, although it could all depend on which side recovers best.”It’s going to be a good guessing game for them,” he said after Wednesday’s win at Meadow Park. “But that’s part of the reason also why it’s important to have two different systems to make it harder for opponents to prepare for us. If we know how we can use it, then our opponents will never know for sure whether we’re using one or the other. That of course makes their preparation much harder.”Mostly it’s what the players do on an individual basis to recover, who’s the best at sleeping or taking ice baths. You have to be a world champion in those things now for Thursday and Friday; that’ll make the difference on Saturday.”Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor played down the significance of the game as a decider.He said: “Both teams have good knowledge of each other. From kick-off, you will see them get into it straight away, knowing what they are up against.”When you play a team repeatedly it can be a good thing. You don’t have to overthink it.”No one here needs telling about the importance, but we don’t overegg it as must-win game. Performance levels are what we concentrate on. If we get those levels right, we can win.”You again? (Part Two)There are only four WSL matches as it is not an official matchday, but a free weekend being used for rearranged fixtures, including some postponed in September following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.Among those is Brighton against Aston Villa, which was supposed to take place at Amex Stadium last year but will instead be played at Broadfield Stadium on Sunday, having drawn 1-1 at Walsall last week.Villa manager Carla Ward says she is pleased to be facing the same opponents back to back, saying last week’s draw felt like a defeat after they made the bulk of chances.”I’m never a fan of it usually,” she said of playing the same team in successive games. “But this time I’m delighted as we got to pick bones out of it this week.”We dominated that game, got a good point, but we should have won. There were many areas I was not happy with, so it’s up to the players to put the performance right.”Bumper crowd for TottenhamRehanne Skinner’s Tottenham have not won a league game since October 30Another game rearranged from September is Tottenham against Manchester United. Unlike Brighton, Spurs will still get their chance to play at the men’s team’s stadium.A crowd of more than 30,000 is expected at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and could challenge the record home attendance for Spurs Women – 38,262 for the north London derby in 2019.Having lost six WSL games in a row, Spurs manager Rehanne Skinner admits it will be tough ask against title-chasing United – but that a huge home crowd could be the boost they need.”Going into that stadium is such a fantastic atmosphere,” she said. “The fans are the 12th player. They give you that boost and it’s just such a great place to play. It gives us that elevated lift that we need whenever we go there. We really want to put on a good performance for the fans.”Kearns to kick on with England chargeLiverpool took a vital step in their bid to avoid an immediate return to the Championship by beating Reading last Sunday, and a win over Leicester this weekend would all but ensure another season of WSL football.Essential for the push into mid-table will be Missy Bo Kearns, after she scored the opener against Reading. She told BBC Sport this week that she is eyeing a place in the England squad for the World Cup in July.Liverpool boss Matt Beard says Kearns will be key to his side for the remainder of the campaign, as she continues to readjust to the WSL following last season’s promotion.”She’s got the world at her feet, she’s a very talented player,” he said. “The transition from Championship to WSL is tough. You’re up against some of the world’s best – so the first part of the season was a learning curve.”She’s got more freedom now to get forward; you can see that now, that creativity and spark. Now she’s adding assists and goals. For an attacking midfielder, she will be judged on that.”Missy Bo Kearns has scored twice in 11 WSL matches this seasonMan Utd aim for the topWith Chelsea not in action this weekend, Manchester United can go top if they win at Tottenham.Marc Skinner’s side have never won the WSL, but with Chelsea set for an extended period away from league football after reaching the League Cup final, his side have a chance to build momentum.Skinner told his press conference on Wednesday: “We go into every game to try and win. I genuinely can’t get this group to think of anything other than winning.”His side conceded ground to Chelsea last weekend, failing to turn dominance into goals in a 0-0 draw with Everton.”We will take nothing for granted and look to convert chances this time,” he added.’I hated his comedy’: Steve Coogan chats to Nihal Arthanayake about British humour and cancel cultureThe rise and fall of the jeweller-turned-criminal: Listen to Gangster: The Story of John Palmer

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