WSL gameweek 10 preview: six things to look out for

The WSL is back with some big games after the winter break
The WSL is back with some big games after the winter break / Harriet Lander/GettyImages | Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages | Quality Sport Images/GettyImages | Lewis Storey/GettyImages

The WSL returns on Saturday after a month-long winter hiatus, and has served up an exciting six fixtures to mark its comeback.

There's a mouthwatering clash between the two league leaders, a new old rivalry, a selection of new signings preparing to make their debuts and even a new manager in the dugout.

Here's everything to look out for on gameweek 10 of the WSL.

Marquee January signings go head to head

Jordan Nobbs
Jordan Nobbs could make her Aston Villa debut on Sunday / Julian Finney/GettyImages

A selection of WSL teams have already been active in the transfer market, with three of the most exciting signings of the window preparing to go head to head and make their debuts for their new clubs at the Bescot Stadium on Saturday.

Aston Villa have brought in England internationals Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Staniforth from Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, while Tottenham have signed 2019/20 PFA player of the year Bethany England from Chelsea. All three new additions share the fact that they are proven top class WSL players, but have seen their minutes limited over the last 18 months.

“It’s important we keep progressing in the manner we want to," said Carla Ward. "With where we want to go and what we want to achieve, those experienced bodies come in and add value to our team. Jordan [Nobbs] and Lucy [Staniforth] fit that perfectly.”

Aston Villa vs Tottenham

When is kick off? Saturday 14 December, 12:30 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Bescot Stadium
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK, international)
Referee? Thomas Kirk

Two title contenders meet for the first time this season

Arsenal vs Chelsea is a huge game for the WSL return
Arsenal vs Chelsea is a huge game for the WSL return / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages | Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

Arsenal and Chelsea are two of the most successful sides in WSL history, and currently occupy the top two spots in the table. The Blues lead the Gunners by three points, but have played a game more.

The two meet for the first time this season at the Emirates on Sunday, with over 40,000 tickets sold for the fixture. Although Arsenal took four points off Chelsea last term but still missed out on top spot, with such little margin for error in the WSL, Sunday's result could have a telling impact on the destination of this year's title.

Arsenal have won just one of their last seven against Chelsea - a memorable 3-2 victory over the Blues in this fixture last term which sparked wild celebrations from Jonas Eidevall.

"For us, this is an opportunity to change that [record]," the Arsenal boss said. "We can't change history, but we can change the future."

Arsenal vs Chelsea

When is kick off? Sunday 15 January, 12:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Emirates Stadium
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Main Event/Sky Sports Football (UK) FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 11:30 (GMT)
Referee? Emily Heaslip

Will the winter break disrupt Reading's momentum?

Chelsea FC v Reading - Barclays Women's Super League
Reading turned in a spirited performance last time out against Chelsea / Andrew Redington/GettyImages

Reading had a tough start to the WSL season, losing their first four to leave a relegation battle looking inevitable this term.

However, the Royals had really hit their stride and put together a strong run of results prior to the winter break, winning three from four in all competitions, fighting back magnificently to take a dramatic point against Liverpool and turning in a top performance in a narrow defeat to Chelsea. Kelly Chambers admitted the break probably came at the wrong time for her team.

The Royals return to action on Sunday against an Everton side they have only gotten the better of once in their last five outings.

Everton vs Reading

When is kick off? Sunday 15 January, 13:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Walton Hall Park
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK, international)
Referee? Tom Reeves

A new chapter for one of football’s biggest rivalries

Ella Toone & Missy Bo Kearns are local home-grown players in this fixture
Ella Toone & Missy Bo Kearns are local home-grown players in this fixture / Cameron Smith/GettyImages | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Although these teams don’t have much history together, Manchester United vs Liverpool is always a huge game, whatever the context. United and Liverpool have only played each other once previously in the WSL – a 2-0 United win back in September 2019. But the rivalry between the clubs goes back decades and the general city rivalry stretches back centuries to the early industrial revolution.

There are local home-grown players on either side who grew up with this rivalry at the forefront of their mind, while many of the fans are keen to see it become a game that is a main feature of the WSL calendar the way it is in the Premier League.

Liverpool boss Matt Beard sought to play down the idea of a rivalry, perhaps more to keep his players grounded ahead of a tough fixture as much as anything else. But counterpart Marc Skinner, while acknowledging the game's lack of immediate history within women’s football, insisted: “The way our fans treat it is exactly the way we will treat it.”

Well over 8,000 tickets have been sold for this one and the atmosphere at Leigh Sports Village, which isn’t exactly a long trip from Merseyside, is sure to be electric.

Man Utd vs Liverpool

When is kick off? Sunday 15 January, 14:05 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/live stream? BBC One/iPlayer (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 13:50 (GMT)
Kirsty Dowle

Jens Scheuer takes charge of first Brighton game

Jens Scheuer
Jens Scheuer is the new Brighton boss / Mark Wieland/GettyImages

Sunday marks a debut in the Brighton dugout for Jens Scheuer, who was appointed Hope Powell's permanent replacement in December following Amy Merricks' period in interim charge.

Scheuer left his previous job at Bayern Munich at the end of the 2021/22 season. The 42-year-old had guided Bayern to the Bundesliga title during the previous campaign, ending Wolfsburg's four-year run of domestic dominance.

His first game sees Brighton take on basement side Leicester - without a win or point all season, but a team who are also finding their feet under their new boss, Willie Kirk.

"It's been an intense start, working hard with the team on how we want to play," said Scheuer. "I can't wait to see us put our ideas out on the pitch."

Leicester vs Brighton

When is kick off? Sunday 15 January, 15:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Kingpower Stadium
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK, international)
Referee? Cheryl Foster

Yui Hasegawa returns to West Ham

Yui Hasegawa
Yui Hasegawa joined Man City from West Ham / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Sunday sees the first meetings between West Ham and Manchester City this season, meaning a return to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for the first time since her summer 2022 deadline day departure for Yui Hasegawa.

The technically gifted midfielder had her WSL debut season with the Hammers, and her impressive performances saw her recruited by Man City after just a single season in east London. She has settled quickly into life at City.

"It's like she's been playing for us for the past five-ten years," Taylor said after Hasegawa's second City appearance. "A real maturity to her play. We've slightly changed her position a little bit because I've said she's bright enough to play in all the midfield positions. I can't speak highly enough of her in how she's come in and how she's contributed." 

West Ham vs Man City

When is kick off? Sunday 15 December, 18:45 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Chigwell Construction Stadium
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football/Premier League (UK), FA Player (International)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 18:30 (GMT)
Referee? Amy Fearn