WSL derby double could decide thrilling title race as Chelsea target Arsenal revenge
A derby-day double stands between Chelsea and a fourth straight Women’s Super League title on Sunday.
Beat London rivals Arsenal at Kingsmeadow, and if Manchester United fail to topple Manchester City, then the crown will be Chelsea’s — and with a game still to play.
Chelsea edged out United 1-0 at Wembley last weekend for a third straight FA Cup triumph, then swatted West Ham aside 4-0 on Wednesday to tee up this final League title tilt.
“There isn’t a great secret to it, I trust the whole squad, I believe in the whole squad,” said Blues boss Emma Hayes. “I use players across the season and, as a result of that, they’ve got confidence when you need them.”
Chelsea’s rotation policy can be unfurled on the League’s top-scorers’ list, with Sam Kerr the only Blues star into double figures for the campaign, even though Hayes’s side have still netted more times than anyone else.
Pernille Harder, Guro Reiten, Fran Kirby, Erin Cuthbert and Lauren James have all scored five or more League goals this term, as Chelsea have shared the burden as well as the plaudits.
Chelsea’s quest for the Champions League holy grail continues, but Hayes’s team have become masterful at dominating domestically.
Timing has proved everything, with the Blues leaping back to the top of the table this week after making up their games in hand to land another psychological blow on their title rivals. Hayes will naturally play it down, but that squad rotation has proved central to their progress, especially alongside cup commitments at home and in Europe.
Dismissing West Ham so easily just days after lifting the FA Cup was a far sterner prospect than Chelsea let on. “It is so overwhelming, the volume of people you come across at Wembley,” said Hayes. “That is the most tiring element, the brains are tired.”
Arsenal fired an early shot this term with the 3-1 Continental Cup Final win over Chelsea, and will look to spoil another Blues party in west London on Sunday.
Jonas Eidevall’s third-placed side sit just three points ahead of City in fourth, so the Gunners will have just as big an eye on the Sunday night Manchester battle as the Blues.
United trail Chelsea by two points with as many matches to play, so Marc Skinner’s side will doubtless not lack for extra motivation against their city rivals.
Chelsea have the mental muscle memory of three-straight League triumphs to rest on this weekend. If Skinner’s side falter now, the Blues’ final-day trip to Reading will be rendered a victory lap.