LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea will have a target on their backs after blazing a trail to a second successive Women’s Super League title last term, and a rejuvenated Arsenal will be the first side to put them to the test when the league gets underway this weekend.
They will not be the only contenders as Manchester City and Manchester United seek to mount new title challenges of their own, with Everton also trying to muscle their way into the top echelons of the league.
Under coach Emma Hayes, Chelsea won the title with a 5-0 thrashing of Reading on the final day of the season before going on to lose the Champions League final to Barcelona. The Catalan club’s furious pressing may have provided a template to those seeking to derail the ambition of the Blues.
Arsenal have bolstered their attack by adding England international Nikita Parris to complement feared finisher Vivianne Miedema, and the addition of Norway midfielder Frida Maanum will ensure a regular supply of chances.
Manchester United have had a turbulent off-season, losing coach Casey Stoney and players Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Lauren James, but the addition of another Norwegian, Vilda Boe Risa, will give them a reliable central midfield engine.
Everton’s acquisition of teenage Swede Hanna Bennison and her international team mates Anna Anvegard and Nathalie Bjorn from FC Rosengard is a sign that the Merseysiders are hoping to close the gap to the top four after finishing 15 points adrift of them last season.
Newcomers Leicester City may struggle to find their feet, but a new deal with broadcasters BBC and Sky Sports means that the stakes will be higher than ever when Manchester United take on Reading to open the season on Friday.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge)