The new Women's Super League season starts on Saturday and although Chelsea could be considered fortunate to have won the 2019-20 title after the campaign was brought to a premature end, it is difficult to see the Blues giving up their crown.
Sportsmail's Ian Herbert and Kathryn Batte have analysed the runners and riders ahead of the big kick-off, with Aston Villa hosting Manchester City in the first match at 2:30pm.
Who will win the league?
In the words of one senior WSL club executive, it’s a ‘two-and-a-half horse race’. Chelsea and Manchester City, the league’s big spenders, seem likely to fight it out again and Arsenal under Joe Montemurro will be the dark horses.
No team have won back-to-back titles since Liverpool in 2013-2014, but it’s hard see past Emma Hayes’ champions Chelsea, who haven’t lost a competitive game since April 2019 and who have set the pace in one of the busiest windows in WSL history.
Few WSL transfers carry a fee, but Pernille Harder’s arrival from Champions League finalists Wolfsburg is thought to have cost a world record £300,000.
She, Australian Sam Kerr and Beth England provide a remarkable strike force at Chelsea, though Kerr has taken time to acclimatise.
City have also recruited, with USA internationals Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis their new star names, but reclaiming the title from Chelsea is a big ask of their new manager Gareth Taylor, brought in from the men’s youth set-up at the club.
Arsenal haven’t spent big but they could make a challenge if Vivianne Miedema, top of the WSL for goals and assists last season, maintains her form. Arsenal may also benefit from not being in the Champions League.
And who looks doomed?
Birmingham and Bristol City narrowly avoided the drop last season, averaging less than a point a game along with Brighton, and both could be set for another relegation battle, with the financial effects far worse for sides whose parent clubs are not in the Premier League.
Bristol have had the stronger window of the two, with five new players, and have kept impressive England youth forward Ebony Salmon.
Birmingham have a new manager in Carla Ward from Championship club Sheffield United but have lost two experienced players in Lucy Staniforth and Rachel Williams.
A team for the neutrals?
Aston Villa’s £2m budget is dwarfed by the £5m-plus of Chelsea and City, but last season’s Championship title- winners ooze equality between the men’s and women’s set-ups.
Both squads train at Bodymoor Heath and the women’s side, often watched on Sundays by men’s manager Dean Smith, also use the Premier League team’s match day bus.
They have invested in a strong girls’ academy set-up this summer, as well as bringing in six recruits from Germany, Scotland, Portugal and England.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more