Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge ensured the title-holders re-established their lead on the prime of the WSL desk and moved three factors away from each Arsenal and Manchester City.
United, in the meantime, are struggling to recreate the magic that noticed them end runners-up in 2022-23 and simply two factors beneath the Blues, securing them a first-ever Champions League berth.
Here, the PA information company takes a have a look at among the key questions surrounding the WSL title race with the second half of the season now underneath manner.
How will Chelsea address huge accidents?
While Emma Hayes enjoys the luxurious of enviable squad depth, the Chelsea boss nonetheless faces the problem of coping with out a number of main gamers, most notably captain Millie Bright, whose timeline for return stays unsure, and striker Sam Kerr, set to overlook the rest of the marketing campaign after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament.
Lauren James’ hat-trick in opposition to her former facet on Sunday greater than validated her boss’ idea that the 22-year-old England worldwide may step up her recreation in Kerr’s absence.
Hayes mentioned January signing Nathalie Bjorn, whose beautiful lengthy ball excessive arrange James’ second purpose, supplied “a bit of calm, composed leadership in Millie’s absence” from the again line.
Who else may problem, and what are their probabilities?
Both Manchester City and Arsenal have 25 factors apiece, three fewer than Chelsea. City, who’re second on purpose distinction, shall be significantly eager not simply to problem for the title but in addition stay within the prime three to regain their Champions League place after ending fourth final season.
City are the one WSL facet who haven’t dropped factors of their final 5 league contests, however will seemingly want an ideal or near-perfect second half if they’re to have any likelihood of unseating the Blues, who misplaced simply two matches in each of their most up-to-date title-winning campaigns.
Arsenal are, as ever, additionally in rivalry and have already strengthened their ranks with the arrival of American defender Emily Fox this month.
Who may very well be a key participant in all of this?
Khadija “Bunny” Shaw has hit a trio of hat-tricks in three of Manchester City’s final 4 league matches and is the WSL’s main scorer with 12 throughout 10 appearances, the one lady having extra success this season in entrance of the opposition’s web than James, whose hat-trick raised her personal tally to 10.
Should the Jamaican striker keep wholesome, Shaw may preserve herself on track for the Golden Boot and probably even assist information her facet to a primary WSL trophy since 2016.
What’s occurring at United – and can Marc Skinner keep?
The hole between fourth-placed United and the league-leading Blues grew to 10 factors with Sunday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge, the place chants of “Skinner out” have been heard from the away finish.
Skinner mentioned his membership “need to continue to invest in the structure to continue to get ourselves to around where Chelsea are with that depth and quality” and was optimistic that new membership shareholders Ineos shall be supportive of the ladies’s facet.
United final March triggered an extension on the 40-year-old’s contract that in idea would preserve him in situ at the least till the tip of this season and on Sunday he informed Sky Sports: “If you look at how you perform with the resources we have, I am absolutely secure in what I do and how I do it.”
When do the important thing match-ups happen?
Manchester City journey to Chelsea on February 16, whereas Arsenal tackle Manchester United on February 17.
The Blues face the Gunners on March 17, with a Manchester derby scheduled for the next Sunday.
City host Arsenal on May 5, earlier than Manchester United welcome Chelsea on May 18, the ultimate day of the marketing campaign.