|Place: Leigh Sports Village Date: October 16, Sunday Start: 12pm BST|
|Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website|
The Women’s Super League is back after a League Cup and international break, but what can we expect from this weekend’s fixtures?
Can Aston Villa continue their unprecedented start? How will Chelsea fare without manager Emma Hayes? Can Manchester City finally start their season against Leicester?
Here are five things to consider this weekend.
Can Villa continue their unbeaten run?
It is perhaps surprising that Aston Villa are ahead of ‘top-of-the-table’ WSL champions Chelsea and Manchester City, who finished ninth in the league last season.
After a 4-3 win over City in the opening game and a 2-0 win over Leicester the following weekend, Villa continued their unbeaten run in all competitions by winning on penalties against Manchester United in the League Cup before the international break.
Carla Ward was awarded the WSL manager of the month for September, while Rachel Daly, who is the league’s top scorer with three goals, was awarded the player’s plaudits.
Villa host West Ham on Sunday in what Ward called “the biggest game of the season so far”.
“It is a group that repeats what it does [manager] It’s Paul Konchesky as a player,” Ward said.
“They are forward and aggressive. They have a lot of quality and experience in that group.”
Without Chelsea Hayes
Chelsea will be without manager Emma Hayes for Sunday’s game against Everton after announcing she would take some time off while recovering from an emergency hysterectomy on Thursday.
The 45-year-old revealed she had the surgery last week “as part of her ongoing battle with endometriosis.”
Assistant manager Denise Reddy is taking responsibility for on-field decisions, but general manager Paul Green, who is handling media duties, confirmed Hayes would be “heavily involved” in the upcoming fixtures.
“He’ll be at home watching all the training sessions online. He’ll be strapped to the bench on game days if he’s well enough to do that,” Green said.
So what can we expect from Reddy?
The American, who has been a head coach in Denmark and the United States, has been Chelsea’s assistant manager since 2020 and previously worked with Hayes at the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) from 2008 to 2010.
“Denise is very specific in her coaching, probably in the way she talks to the players one-on-one and the way she does individual analysis of the players,” Green said.
Can Man City kick off their season?
Manchester City, who finished third in the WSL last season, are third from bottom and are looking for their first points of the season after defeats to Chelsea and Aston Villa.
City boss Gareth Taylor is “pretty confident” he can get that first win against Leicester this weekend, especially on home soil.
“It’s nice to be at home. Obviously we’ve had two tough away games so far so it’s nice to be back in front of our supporters,” Taylor said.
“It gives you such a psychological advantage, the familiarity, usually more supporters than outsiders.”
However, Lydia Bedford’s side will also be hoping for their first win of the season after a late own goal denied Everton an equaliser.
“[City] we will see it as an opportunity to take points, but at the same time we are not here to flip and tickle our bellies,” said the Leicester manager.
Solidarity with NWSL players
This weekend’s games are the first league games to be played since an independent investigation found abuse “it became systemic” In the United States’ top division, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
During England’s international friendly against the United States last week, the players wore teal armbands, Wembley’s arch was lit up in teal and the two teams gathered in the middle before kick-off, arm in arm in front of a banner reading “Protect The Players”. .
Bedford confirmed Leicester had been in communication with Manchester City over a show of solidarity for NWSL players this weekend and said it was likely to be similar to the support shown by the Lions.
“We have to be in a position where the players feel safe,” added Bedford.
“It might be football, but at the end of the day it’s work and you should be able to go to work every day, and feel safe in that environment. Feel respected in that environment.”
Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner called the report “appalling” and United manager Marc Skinner said managers and players must follow through. “call it misconduct.”
“It’s heartbreaking to see so many professional women hurt and left behind by a failed system that failed to support them throughout their careers,” added Rehanne Skinner.
Le Tissier will face Brighton’s coaching club
English defender Maya Le Tissier has made a brilliant start for Manchester United since joining from Brighton this summer, starting and keeping clean sheets in United’s first two WSL games. He also scored two goals in the beginning They beat Reading 4-0.
Le Tissier, who broke the record for most appearances by a teenager in the WSL last season, has been praised by both managerial teams ahead of this weekend’s game as Brighton travel to Leigh Sports Village.
“He’s so mature for someone so young, but that’s his best thing, even when you watch his interviews, he’s driven, he’s focused but he’s so funny,” said Marc Skinner.
“[Brighton] We’ve had a big part in what Maya is, so we’re reaping the rewards right now, and our job is to keep growing with it.”
Brighton boss Hope Powell added: “Maya is such a lovely kid. I’ve been texting her since she went to United and after she scored I said ‘well done’.”
“I’m looking forward to a great game on Sunday!”