The key talking points as the WSL resumes after winter break

The Women’s Super League returns post-winter break as the season’s 11th round of matches takes place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key talking points heading into the resumption.

Kerr-less Chelsea

A major piece of news during the WSL hiatus was that Chelsea will have to continue their bid for a fifth successive title without star striker Sam Kerr after the Australian suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The Blues, currently leading by three points in what is their final season before United States-bound boss Emma Hayes departs, return minus Kerr to league duty on Sunday with a blockbuster clash, taking on Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, a meeting of last season’s top two. The champions may also have skipper Millie Bright absent, the defender having been sidelined since November by a knee issue.

Crunch time for United?

Marc Skinner’s United, who finished two points behind Chelsea last term, are battling to stay in this title race, lying seven points back in fourth after the surprise 2-1 loss at home to Liverpool in their final match before the break. Sunday provides a vital opportunity to reduce the gap – and should they lose, their hopes of WSL glory will look to be in tatters. They have not won any of the seven WSL matches between the sides, being beaten six times.

In-form City

Second-placed Manchester City are the form team in the division, closing 2023 with four consecutive wins in which they scored 16 goals. Seven came from Golden Boot front-runner Khadija Shaw (nine goals overall), including hat-tricks in a 7-0 thrashing of Tottenham and 4-1 win at Everton. Gareth Taylor’s team will look to continue the momentum when they host Liverpool, who went level on points with United after the win against them, another eye-catching result in an impressive season from Matt Beard’s team.

Arsenal seek response

On the same amount of points as City are Arsenal, another side like United aiming to bounce back from ending 2023 on a disappointing note. Having thumped Chelsea 4-1 on December 10, a seventh successive victory, Jonas Eidevall’s Gunners then had the chance to go top six days later but suffered a 1-0 derby loss at Tottenham. They host seventh-placed Everton on Saturday, the build-up to which has seen Leah Williamson continue to close in on a return to action as the England skipper recovers from an ACL injury of her own.

Robins on a roll on the road

Bristol City are the team occupying bottom place, separated by goal difference from West Ham, who they beat 3-2 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium in November for their first points since promotion. Their two subsequent away league matches have been a 2-2 draw at Everton and 1-1 draw at Liverpool, and Lauren Smith’s side will aim to extend that good form on the road when they visit Brighton – three points ahead of them in 10th – on Sunday. West Ham entertain Tottenham on Sunday, while the first match of the resumption sees Leicester host Aston Villa at the King Power Stadium on Friday night.

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