Women's Super League fixtures to look out for in 2016

Chelsea's Ji So-yun celebrates a goal
Chelsea claimed the Women's Super League One crown in 2015, having collected their first major women's trophy earlier in the year by winning the FA Cup

Women's Super League One will be bigger than ever this year, with an expanded nine-team competition starting on Wednesday, 23 March.

When it comes to title races, things could hardly be tighter than they have been in the women's top-flight in recent years, with the league champions decided on the final day in both 2014 and 2015.

Chelsea start their title defence against newly-promoted Doncaster Rovers Belles, while Reading make a busy start to the season with an opening-week double header away from home, at Arsenal and then Sunderland.

BBC Sport examines what could be key moments for each club during the 2016 campaign.


Last season: Third

Fixture to watch: Manchester City (a), 28 March

BBC Sport's Tom Garry: The Gunners impressed on the road in 2015 and their first away game of 2016 will inject some early intrigue into the title race.

Pedro Martinez Losa's side travel to rivals Manchester City - a fixture in which they earned a vital 1-0 win last year, arguably costing City the title in the process.

Matches between the "big three" title contenders could sway the entire season and neither Arsenal nor City will want to slip up as early as March.

Birmingham City

Karen Carney

Last season: Sixth

Fixture to watch: Liverpool (a), 23 March

Birmingham City have been among the least active in the off-season transfer market, with manager David Parker saying it is "essential" the club produce home-grown talent.

Losing versatile England winger Karen Carney, who was the first woman inducted to Birmingham City's Hall of Fame, to champions Chelsea is a major blow.

Blues spent much of last season battling to avoid relegation. They eventually finished third from bottom ahead of Liverpool, and the opening-day test against a new-look Reds side could be insightful.


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Highlights: Chelsea Ladies 4-0 Sunderland Ladies

Last season: Champions

Fixture to watch: Reading (a), 11 September

BBC Sport's Tom Garry: One of the highest-profile stories of last season was Chelsea's signing of England striker Fran Kirby, 22, from her childhood club Reading.

Now, following her old side's promotion to the top flight, Kirby will make an emotional return to face the Royals in September.

Still adored by most Reading fans, will 'mini-Messi' find the net against her old side, at what will be a key time in the season for both clubs?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

Last season: Promoted, second in WSL 2

Fixture to watch: Manchester City (a), 2 May

Doncaster Rovers Belles' demotion from WSL 1 to make way for Manchester City in 2014 was branded "scandalous" at the time, but it also proved to be the rebirth of one of the oldest clubs in the women's game in England.

The Belles have since faced Manchester City three times in the past two seasons in cup competitions and even beat them the first time they met in 2014.

A league meeting, however, will pack even more emotion for Doncaster on their return to the top flight.


Asisat Oshoala

Last season: Seventh

Fixture to watch: Arsenal (a), 31 July

There is nothing like a good build-up to generate excitement around a tasty fixture.

That is exactly what will happen when Liverpool travel to Arsenal in July, and come up against a side bolstered by the additions of two of the Reds' biggest stars - England international Fara Williams and Nigeria striker Asisat Oshoala.

To magnify the rivalry even further, the two previous WSL champions also meet on the last day of the season.

Manchester City

Last season: Second

Fixture to watch: Chelsea (a), 19 May

Manchester City have been a growing force in the women's game since their introduction to WSL 1 in 2014. Last season they finished second to Chelsea, two points off top spot.

Taking one win from their opening five league games last term ultimately cost them. This season, by the time they meet Chelsea in May - their sixth league game - City will want their title ambitions to be right on track.

Notts County

Ellen White in action for Notts County

Last season: Fifth

Fixture to watch: Chelsea (h), 6 November.

For a third successive season, Notts County could help decide the season on the final day - if it goes that far.

Chelsea, the defending champions and one of the favourites for the title in 2016, will make the trip to Meadow Lane on 6 November.

Notts faced a Manchester City side still in the title hunt on the last day of the 2015 campaign, while Birmingham City fell short of the title a year earlier following a 2-2 draw with Notts.


Last season: Promoted, WSL 2 champions

Fixture to watch: Arsenal (h), 27 April

Reading begin life in the top flight with three games away from home, starting with an opening-week double-header at Arsenal and Sunderland.

After facing Notts County at Meadow Lane, the Royals get to move into Adams Park for their first home game, which is against a Gunners side they will have already faced about a month earlier.


Beth Mead

Last season: Fourth

Fixture to watch: Reading (h), 26 March

Sunderland were a sensation in their first season in WSL 1 in 2015, mixing it with the front-runners until July. That, however, is when their form slumped dramatically, as they failed to win any of their last eight games.

With that miserable run still hanging over them, the Lady Black Cats will be eager to get off to a winning start against newly promoted Reading.

WSL fixtures
Chelsea captain Katie Chapman led the London club to FA Cup and WSL 1 glory in 2015

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