WSL title race: Why Man City hold advantage over Chelsea

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WSL title race: Why Man City hold advantage over Chelsea

Chelsea and Manchester City are fighting it out in a two-horse race for the Women’s Super League title – but who is most likely to take the crown come May?

We take a look at both side’s prospects as the season approaches its final month…

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MAN CITY

Position: 1st
Points: 49
Goal difference: 42

The title charge is going down to the wire.

Manchester City have Europe in their favour. Chelsea boss Emma Hayes isn’t wrong when she continuously points to the fact that the teams not involved in the Champions League have the edge in the title race. It’s a fact, a dual focus is harder to manage.

And so Gareth Taylor’s side, who have only been gunning for one trophy since early March, have an obvious advantage over challengers Chelsea. Less games equals less fatigue, which makes for a greater chance of success.

Of course, that isn’t an exact science. The Blues can do both, they have routinely proved that. But Man City must maximise their position to its fullest – they are leading from the front and can continue to pile pressure back on Chelsea by staying perfect between now and May 18.

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Watch highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Manchester City and West Ham

Here comes the sticking point. A meeting with Arsenal on May 5. The Gunners have very little to play for at this point but can still spoil the party. Arsenal beat City 2-1 back in November, before City then enacted their revenge in the FA Cup – a 1-0 triumph in February.

The head-to-head is poised at 1-1, then, a balance City must tip in their favour if designs on the WSL trophy are going to be realised.

Shaw injury

Image: Worryingly for Man City, top scorer Bunny Shaw limped off against West Ham and left the stadium on crutches

There is a chance they will have to contest the three-game run-in without leading scorer Bunny Shaw – by far the most prolific forward of any in the league. Shaw has found the net 21 times this term, averaging a goal every 66 minutes, which equates to 1.36 goals per game. Scintillating stuff.

She limped off in City’s 5-0 thumping of West Ham last time out, having scored twice inside 24 minutes. “She’s on crutches, which looks bad,” Taylor said post-match. “We’ll just have to assess it. If it’s more serious than we anticipate, then we’ll deal with it.”

In reserve City have Chloe Kelly, who is adept at tucking in from wide right to perform a de facto No 9 role, while Lauren Hemp, who often plays that position for England, is another useful option – Mary Fowler can do a job too.

Man City fixtures

Sunday 28th April 6:30pm Kick off 6:45pm

Sky Sports Football HD Sky Sports Football HD

April 28: Bristol City vs Man City, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 6.45pm

May 5: Man City vs Arsenal, kick-off 2.15pm

May 18: Aston Villa vs Man City, kick-off 3pm

CHELSEA

Position: 2nd
Points: 46
Goal difference: 39

A case for Chelsea is always strong: their status as champions in each of the past four seasons dictates that. In fact, since 2015, Hayes’ side have only been beaten to the trophy twice – by Man City in 2016 and Arsenal in 2019.

One familiar foe is keen to derail this year’s bid.

Before their next league encounter, a trip to Liverpool on May 1, Chelsea could find themselves six points adrift of City – having played two games fewer, but also trailing the goal difference stakes.

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And, for the very first time, it’s Taylor’s side who have their hands on the predicted trophy, with a 51 per cent chance of beating Chelsea to the crown. Championships aren’t won on paper, but it’s usually a good indictor of which way the pendulum might swing.

Chelsea’s opportunity to make European history, presumably, holds greater sway with Hayes. That’s not to say all WSL engagements will be abandoned, far from it, but between now and the end of May, Chelsea have five guaranteed games – six if they make the Champions League final. That’s a lot of football. Priorities must dictate.

Erin Cuthbert and her Chelsea team-mates celebrate her winning goal in Barcelona

Image: Erin Cuthbert scored the winner as Chelsea beat Barca 1-0 in the first leg of their WCL semi final

The Londoners carry a 1-0 advantage into this weekend’s semi-final second leg against Barcelona and will do everything in their power to protect it. The challenge will be as draining on legs as it will be minds.

How much will they have left in the tank thereafter? Only Chelsea themselves know that. Hayes has a reputation to uphold and a legacy to enrich.

Bowing out as a European champion is as good as it gets – she deserves a crack at the final, at least, and the Manchester City camp will be hoping she gets it.

Chelsea fixtures

Wednesday 1st May 6:30pm Kick off 7:00pm

Sky Sports Football HD Sky Sports Football HD

April 27: Chelsea vs Barcelona, kick-off 5.30pm

May 1: Liverpool vs Chelsea, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 7pm

May 5: Chelsea vs Bristol City, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 6.45pm

May 15: Tottenham vs Chelsea, kick-off 7.15pm

May 18: Man United vs Chelsea, kick-off 3pm

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