Women’s Super League preview & predictions: Gameweek 12

After the Christmas break, a series of Covid-19 related cancellations and ‘Dubai gate’, the WSL returns with a full fixture schedule this weekend for the first time since the opening week of December.

The title race is currently tantalisingly poised, with just four points separating the top three sides – and excitingly, two of them meet on Sunday.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about every fixture this weekend.

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Manchester City vs Aston Villa

Georgia Stanway, Caroline Siems, Nat Haigh, Asmita AleGeorgia Stanway, Caroline Siems, Nat Haigh, Asmita Ale
Georgia Stanway netted a brace when the two sides last met | Harriet Lander/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 12:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played?
The Academy Stadium
TV channel/live stream?
BBC red button, BBC iPlayer & FA Player

Manchester City can move to within a point of Arsenal in the final Champions League spot with victory against second bottom Aston Villa – the team the Citizens beat on the opening day of the season for Gareth Taylor’s first competitive victory as City manager.

However, Taylor’s side will have to do so without Sam Mewis – arguably the WSL’s player of the season thus far – and her USWNT teammate Rose Lavelle, who are both away on international duty.

Villa meanwhile will be aiming to bounce back from their midweek quarter final Continental Cup defeat to Bristol City, but could hand a league debut to their blockbuster January arrival Mana Iwabuchi.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa

Everton vs Bristol City

Izzy Christiansen, Ingrid Moe Wold, Hayley Raso, Claire EmslieIzzy Christiansen, Ingrid Moe Wold, Hayley Raso, Claire Emslie
Everton are without a league win in five | Visionhaus/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 13:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played?
Walton Hall Park
TV channel/live stream? FA Player

Matt Beard will take charge of Bristol City for the first time on Sunday for their trip to Everton. The former West Ham boss has been unveiled as the temporary replacement for Tanya Oxtoby, who has begun her maternity leave.

The Vixens have not had much to shout about this season and are yet to taste victory in the WSL, but spirits will be high after Ebony Salmon inspired them to a Continental Cup quarter final win over Aston Villa on Wednesday. However, they will again be without the influential Sophie Baggaley, who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Everton will be looking to recapture their early season form. Having started the campaign with four consecutive league victories, they are without a WSL win since October, but will be buoyed by the news that Claire Emslie’s loan move has been made permanent.

Prediction: Everton 3-1 Bristol City

Reading vs Arsenal

Jill RoordJill Roord
Jill Roord hit a hat-trick when Arsenal last met Reading | Alex Burstow/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 14:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played?
Madejski Stadium
TV channel/live stream? FA Player

Having suffered a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Chelsea last time out, there’s no let up for Reading, as they face an Arsenal side that beat them 6-1 in September.

The fixture will see Danielle Carter face her former side, having left Arsenal for Reading in the summer after over a decade with the Gunners.

Arsenal can leapfrog Chelsea and move to within a point of leaders Manchester United with victory. With the current top two meeting on Sunday, this weekend is a big opportunity for Arsenal to make up some ground at the league summit.

Prediction: Reading 1-4 Arsenal

Birmingham vs Brighton

Carla WardCarla Ward
Birmingham will likely have a small matchday squad to work with on Sunday | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 14:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played?
Damson Park
TV channel/live stream? FA Player

Birmingham were forced to call off last weekend’s game with Tottenham as a substantial injury crisis coupled with their small squad meant they were unable to field a team. Manager Carla Ward has confirmed they will have enough players fit to play on Sunday, and new signing Veatriki Sarri could make her debut having arrived from Ward’s former side Sheffield United in January.

Brighton are also expected to be a few players short, with manager Hope Powell confirming that she will have to call up a selection of academy players for the game.

Sunday’s clash will be the third time the two sides have met this season, with Brighton emerging victorious on the opening day of the season, before Birmingham came out on top via a penalty shootout victory in the FA Cup quarter finals – a result that kickstarted their season.

Prediction: Birmingham 1-1 Brighton

Chelsea vs Manchester United

Lauren James, Maren MjeldeLauren James, Maren Mjelde
Manchester United versus Chelsea is a traditionally tight affair | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 14:30 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Kingsmeadow
TV channel/livestream? BT Sport 1
Read 90min’s preview here

The WSL’s last two remaining unbeaten records will be on the line on Sunday as the top two go head to head. Chelsea’s current unbeaten league run stretches back a full 30 games, and there was nothing to separate the pair when they met on the opening day of the campaign.

Manchester United will be without Alessia Russo but welcome back Chelsea academy graduate Lauren James – who came off the bench to great effect during the two sides’ last meeting.

United have not played since before Christmas, while a Fran Kirby masterclass saw Chelsea ease past Reading last time out – despite Emma Hayes opting to restrict a number of regular starters to substitute cameos.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United

West Ham vs Tottenham

Angela Addison, Grace FiskAngela Addison, Grace Fisk
Tottenham and West Ham shared the spoils when they last met | Julian Finney/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 15:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Victoria Road
TV channel/livestream? FA Player

Olli Harder will take charge of his first West Ham game on Sunday after being appointed as Matt Beard’s successor in December.

The New Zealander takes charge of a Hammers side who will be without Rachel Daly after she returned to Houston Dash, but have been boosted by Emily van Egmond making her loan move permanent.

West Ham can leapfrog opponents Tottenham with victory, but face a Spurs side who have won two from two under the guidance of new boss Rehanne Skinner. Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky have both made their loan moves to north London permanent in January – a big boost for Spurs.

Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Tottenham