The Scottish Women’s Premier League returns this weekend as the second half of the season gets under way.
Rangers have been top of the league since before Christmas and have opted not to bring in any additional players in the January window.
For last week’s cup fixtures, the club utilised their impressive youth development system, which is beginning to bear some fruit – 15-year-old Emma Watson and 16-year-old Jodi McLeary both featured impressively in their 14-1 win over League Two Stenhousemuir.
Meanwhile, closest rivals Glasgow City have been a little more active with transfers, as they announced the signing of Northern Ireland international Kerry Beattie.
This has been the first opportunity for new head coach Eileen Gleeson to add some depth to the squad she inherited when she took over in November.
After signing a three-year deal, it is hoped 19-year-old Beattie will be an attacking investment, coming in as last season’s top scorer in Northern Ireland for Glentoran.
The first fixture this weekend will see Aberdeen take on Spartans, as the Dons look forward to getting back to action after their cup tie away to Glasgow Women last weekend was postponed. A win will help them cement their spot in fifth and would give them a healthy cushion on the sides below them.
The final game of the weekend, on Sunday afternoon, will be broadcast on TV as Hibernian are at home to Celtic.
A loss for Hibs could end their hopes of a top-two finish, as they already sit seven points adrift of their third-place opposition, and ten points off City in second.
What’s going wrong at Arsenal?
I don’t quite think anyone expected to see League leaders Arsenal fall to then bottom side Birmingham City in the FAWSL last weekend.
The 2-0 defeat was certainly a shock and it added to the poor run of form the Gunners seem to be struggling to break away from.
The well-earned three points for the Blues was enough to take them off the foot of the table, as they continue to yo-yo in and out of the relegation zone with Leicester City.
Birmingham will kick-start this weekend’s action as they travel to Manchester United, who are currently on a high after Ella Toone picked up Player of the Month and Marc Skinner earned Manager of the Month for December.
United are hoping to make it their third league win in a row, as they will look to put pressure on Spurs who currently sit ahead of them by two points in third place. It’s an important race, as finishing in the top three will guarantee European football next season.
United will also be feeling the pressure from rivals, City, who have certainly picked up some momentum after their very slow start to the season. They are now directly below them in the table after Gareth Taylor’s side have fought their way back up to a part of the division you’d expect to see them in,
To add to that, they will be encouraged to have both Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze return to club action following prolonged spells out with injury.
Not only is having both players available a boost to the team, it also has a psychological effect on the teams City come up against. It is not just the quality both players can bring on the pitch, but their leadership and winning mentality are two attributes which have contributed to the heights both players have reached across their decorated careers.
"WOW! This is absolutely extraordinary" 🤯
Birmingham City, bottom of the #WSL before today's action, take a 2-0 lead over table-toppers Arsenal with this strike from Greece international Veatriki Sarri 🇬🇷
📺 Watch live on Sky Sports Premier League pic.twitter.com/uaOMfsDkEC
— Sky Sports WSL (@SkySportsWSL) January 9, 2022
City will face Villa, who are another side who have dipped in form this term, albeit more recently.
Villa have lost three league games in a row and have conceded twelve goals with just one in reply. The last time the sides met, City came out 5-0 winners and Villa will be hoping to avoid a similar outcome today.
The top two will need to wait for tomorrow before they are in action. With four defeats in five games across all competitions, Arsenal will have another tough test as they welcome Reading to Borehamwood. Reading, meanwhile, are unbeaten in seven league games in what has been one of their best league runs ever.
Chelsea’s last WSL game came in the shape of a 1-0 defeat to Reading back in early December and, with their last two fixtures postponed since then, they will be keen to put the disruption behind them and get back to winning ways. Emma Hayes’ side face an away trip to Everton tomorrow afternoon.
To wrap up the weekend’s action, Spurs will take on West Ham, with Tottenham hoping to get revenge after the Hammers earned a 1-0 victory the last time the sides met in November.
El Clasico at Nou Camp is just recognition for Barca’s exploits
It was announced through the week there will be a Women’s El Clasico played at the Nou Camp for the first time ever in March.
Barcelona will take on Real Madrid in the next round of the UEFA Women’s Champions League as the two Spanish sides face each other in the quarter-finals.
Holders Barca have more than earned the opportunity to play at the prestigious home stadium, given their remarkable dominance, not just domestically, but across Europe.
Meanwhile, in more recognition for the women’s game, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was on the Queen’s New Year’s honours list as she was awarded an OBE, as recognition for her contributions to the sport.