WSL title race: Chelsea in the box seat as battle goes to final day of the season

Chelsea v Man Utd in WSL
Date: Saturday, 27 May Kick-off: 14:30 BST – six matches
Liverpool v Manchester United: Live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 14:00
Reading v Chelsea: Live on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app from 14:15
Live text commentary covering all six final-day games on the BBC Sport website and app

Going into the final game of the Women’s Super League season, it looks likely a very familiar name will be on the trophy – although a completely new one remains a possibility.

Aiming for a fourth successive WSL crown, Chelsea are in the driving seat as they lead second-placed Manchester United by two points.

Victory at bottom club Reading would clinch the title for the Blues and seal a third straight domestic double after they beat United in the Women’s FA Cup final earlier this month.

However, any slip-up could let United in. Should Chelsea lose to a Reading side who need victory in order to avoid relegation, Marc Skinner’s side would snatch a first WSL title with a success of their own at Liverpool.

United could also be champions if they win and Chelsea draw, although they would need to beat Liverpool by six clear goals in such a scenario.

If they fail to win, Chelsea will finish top regardless of their result at Reading.

How it stands

BBC Sport

Chelsea (1st, 55 points)

So often Terminator-like in their pursuit of the title, Chelsea have been pushed hard this season in what was at one stage a four-way race.

When they lost at Manchester City in late March, only three points separated the top four. However, Hayes’ side inevitably hit their stride at the right time.

Since losing at City, Chelsea have won their last six WSL games, scoring 24 goals and conceding just once.

Hayes wants a fast start in order to assuage any doubts on Saturday and won’t be worrying much about matters over at Prenton Park.

Asked whether she would keep an eye on United’s encounter with Liverpool, Hayes said: “I might ask at half-time, but I will focus on what we are in control of.

“I don’t think about it, I think about getting off to a good start. We have to take care of the right things.”

Manchester United (2nd, 53 points)

Whatever happens this weekend, United have enjoyed their best-ever campaign in women’s football after only being formed in their current guise in 2018 as a second-tier club.

They will finish in the WSL top three – and qualify for the Women’s Champions League – for the first time.

But Skinner wants his team to aim for their biggest prize.

He admitted this week United need an unlikely set of circumstances to win the title, but they must look to score early and push hard to maintain their end of the bargain.

“The reality is we know if Chelsea draw we need a massive goal swing,” he said. “We will try of course.

“To think and believe you deserve that is the wrong mentality. Liverpool are wonderful at counter-attacking. We have to build success because they won’t give us anything.

“All we can try to do is to win the game. If there’s different connotations we need to try to react to that.”

Chelsea celebrate winning the 2021-22 WSL title

Who will win?

“You would think it will be Chelsea’s title,” former Blues defender Anita Asante told the Football Daily podcast.

“This end of the season, Chelsea have really come into their own. They haven’t performed at their best throughout the course of the season, but in the last few games they’ve really shown the Chelsea side we’re used to seeing.

“Ruthless, relentless, going about their business in a very professional manner. I don’t see them, this close to lifting that trophy, letting go of that.

“On paper you would definitely back Chelsea to get a result against Reading.”

Former England international Fern Whelan also thinks Chelsea’s remarkable record of winning WSL titles – this would be their seventh in nine seasons – is proof they will get the business done in Berkshire.

“They’re just continuously winning,” she added. “They’re showing they know how to do it and they’ve done it before.

“What’s giving them that edge over teams at the moment is they’ve done it before and they’ve got the players and the pedigree and the coaching staff just to be able to pull it through right at the last minute.”

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