WSL gameweek 12 preview: Six things to look out for

There is plenty to discuss ahead of the weekend's WSL action
There is plenty to discuss ahead of the weekend's WSL action / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages | Julian Finney/GettyImages | Visionhaus/GettyImages

The WSL returns on Saturday following a weekend of FA Cup action, with six matches to look forward to.

After three fixtuers games fell foul to the weather conditions during gameweek 11, this weekend could see all 12 WSL sides in action for only the second time this calendar year.

With crucial clashes at the top and bottom of the league, here's everything to look out for during gameweek 12 of the WSL.

Can Leicester build on their first WSL win of the season?

Leicester City v Arsenal - Barclays Women's Super League
Leicester got their first WSL win of the season last time out / Ross Kinnaird/GettyImages

Leicester secured their first WSL win of the season at the 10th time of asking in their last league outing, running out convincing 3-0 winners against Brighton.

However, they saw their match against Spurs the following weekend postponed, leaving a three-week gap between their first league win of the campaign and their next WSL match; Saturday's clash with Champions League chasing Man City. Will the momentum gained have been stunted?

Leicester and Man City met in the Conti Cup just over a fortnight ago, with the Sky Blues needing a last minute winner to edge to a 1-0 victory.

"I think that may go against us, as they will not take us lightly," Kirk said of the pair's cup clash. "But that just means we must up our performance. I think we’re capable of doing that."

Leicester vs Man City

When is kick off? Saturday 4 February, 11:30 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? King Power Stadium
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Premier League (UK),FA Player (International)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 11:00 (GMT)
Referee? Amy Fearn

Can Brighton get their first WSL win under Jens Scheuer?

Jens Scheuer
Jens Scheuer is hoping for his first WSL win as Brighton boss on Saturday / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

Brighton will be looking to put a bit of daylight between themselves and basement side Leicester when they face Aston Villa on Sunday - the second WSL match under new boss Jens Scheuer.

The former Bayern Munich manager's tenure got off to a nightmare start as the Seagulls were beaten 3-0 by relegation rivals Leicester to drag them closer to the drop zone. Scheuer secured his first win as Brighton boss against National League outfit West Brom in the FA Cup last time out, but he remains on the hunt for his maiden WSL victory.

"The results are improving," he said. "We are working hard in training and the squad is adapting quickly. We have been together four weeks now and you can see what we are doing well already."

Aston Villa vs Brighton

When is kick off? Saturday 4 February, 12:30 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Bescot Stadium
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Louise Saunders

All eyes on Alessia Russo

Alessia Russo
Arsenal made multiple world record bids for Alessia Russo in January / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Manchester United resisted Arsenal’s multiple world record approaches for Alessia Russo on the final two days of the January transfer window, with Everton this weekend her first outing since then.

Russo has been such a pivotal figure for United since the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign and is again the team’s top scorer in the WSL this season. To let her go, even with less than six months remaining on her contract and no guarantees of signing a new one, would have massively weakened United at the same time as strengthening a direct top three and title rival.

All eyes will be on Russo come Sunday to see what, if any, toll the saga has taken.

United boss Marc Skinner wasn’t involved in the process when the Arsenal bids were coming in, but he spoke to Russo the morning after the transfer deadline that he said was an ‘easy conversation’. From Skinner’s perspective there is no issue with her attitude or questions about being unsettled.

“We’ve had a really good meeting, really positive. I can’t stress enough that Alessia is the nicest person, the best kid, great attitude, exactly someone we are looking to keep here and keep in negotiations around that. She wants to win here," he explained.

“I can’t speak any higher of her attitude and the way she gets on with her job. We’ve shared a real good moment, she was really positive and she has trained really well.”

Man Utd vs Everton

When is kick off? Sunday 5 February, 12:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Emily Heaslip

The (WSL) return of Bethany England

Bethany England
Bethany England faces Chelsea on Sunday / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Sunday's clash with Chelsea could be Bethany England's fourth outing since since joining Tottenham from the Blues in January - half of her appearances will have come against her former employers.

England won seven major trophies with Chelsea and was particularly instrumental in their 2019/20 WSL title triumph. But with her playing time reduced and the 2023 World Cup on the horizon, the forward moved to Spurs to help force herself back into Sarina Wiegman's squad. She has netted twice in her three appearances thus far in north London.

"She's going to bring goals to that team," Emma Hayes said. "She links well, I think her leadership from the front, her experience being at a team like ours, she'll be bringing a lot to Tottenham's front line and we certainly know the threats she'll pose our defence."

Tottenham vs Chelsea

When is kick off? Sunday 5 February, 12:30 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Brisbane Road
TV channel/live stream? BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport Website (UK), FA Player (International)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 12:15 (GMT)
Referee? Abigail Byrne

How will Liverpool's forward line shape up?

Cari Holland
Liverpool were narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the FA Cup last weekend / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

Liverpool have been dealt a series of blows in forward areas this term; last season's top scorer Leanne Kiernan suffered an ankle injury on the opening day of the season and is expected to be out until at least March, while marquee summer signing Shanice van de Sanden saw her first half of the campaign disrupted by an Achilles problem.

The Dutch international has since suffered a knee injury during the warm up ahead of the WSL fixture that never was between Liverpool and Chelsea, and is set to be sidelined for up to two months.

Liverpool signed striker Natasha Dowie on deadline day - the second member of Matt Beard's 2013 and 2014 title-winning Liverpool side to rejoin the club this window, following Gemma Bonner's arrival in December.

"January's a difficult window - there weren't many forwards that were signed during the window," said Beard. "Natasha's agent contacted us to see if there was any interest and that was on the same day we got the results back on Shanice's scan, so we worked really hard to make it happen. She's had a big impact already and the girls' reaction to her coming back has been fantastic."

Liverpool vs Reading

When is kick off? Sunday 5 February, 14:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Prenton Park
TV channel/live stream? FA Player (UK & international)
Referee? Jane Simms

How will Arsenal deal with failing to sign a striker in January?

Arsenal v Olympique Lyonnais: Group C - UEFA Women's Champions League
Jonas Eidevall had hoped to sign a striker in January / Gaspafotos/MB Media/GettyImages

Jonas Eidevall was very public about his hopes of signing a prolific goal scorer throughout the January window, with the Gunners seeing world record bids for Alessia Russo rejected by Manchester United as the window ticked towards the deadline.

Arsenal ultimately failed to add to their forward line, with recalled youngster Gio Queiroz and Stina Blackstenius their only recognised central strikers until the end of the campaign.

"I think you can have results, or you can have excuses. I don't think you can have both," Eidevall said when quizzed on the impact it could have on the title race. "And I want to try having results."

West Ham vs Arsenal

When is kick off? Sunday 5 February, 18:45 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Chigwell Construction Stadium
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football/Premier League/Main Event (UK), FA Player (International)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 18:30 (GMT)
Referee? Richie Watkins