Women’s Super League Preview: Liverpool Ladies FC

By Neil Evans.

Tonight Liverpool Ladies lock horns with Manchester City in the pick of the games in the opening week of the new WSL season. Neil Evans assesses Liverpool’s chances of winning back to back titles.

We should have been warned, the early season demolition of Arsenal at the Emirates (4-0) was a warning to the WSL at large that the red side of Liverpool were on the march and they meant business. Yes, Arsenal did get their revenge in the reverse fixture but Liverpool were deserved champions. The money that had been spent on revamping the squad had more than paid off and they have, later in the year, a Women’s Champions League campaign to look forward to.

Liverpool clinched the WSL title on the last day of the 2013 season

Liverpool clinched the WSL title on the last day of the 2013 season

From Last to First but can Liverpool stay on top?

But can they now defend what was won? That will be the question, particularly with the arrival of Manchester City and Notts County, the additions at Chelsea and that’s without mentioning the others..all desperate to knock Liverpool off their perch!

Matt Beard, manager of the season, will need his talented squad to step up to the mark again and, if anyone can get the best out of his players then the former Chelsea and Charlton boss is that manager.

There have been some pre-season setbacks with 3 key midfielders injured. Nicole Rolser, a pivotal player who provided so much ammunition for the prolific Natasha Dowie, promising midfielder Katie Zelem and former Vixen Lucy Staniforth (who once again has aggravated the same ACL injury sustained for Bristol in last seasons FA Cup Final) are all unavailable, for the time being. Luckily, the reds squad goes very deep and there is cover in every position.

Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Former Chelsea boss Matt Beard was appointed manager of Liverpool Ladies in 2012

It’s not clear whether Danielle Gibbons or Libby Stout will get the nod as the starting keeper but both are competent shot-stoppers. Liverpool‘s defence is one of the best in the WSL, if not the best, and the centre back pairing of Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze won many plaudits for their composed displays. Bonner’s last gasp 30 yard strike at Bristol will live long (in my case too long!) in the memory in a dramatic 4-3 Reds win. Left back Corina Schroder had an outstanding campaign along with Becky Easton – real combination of youth and experience! Beard hasn’t rested on his laurels and has recruited the tenacious Martha Harris from what was Lincoln Ladies to sure up Liverpool‘s rearguard.

For me, midfield was where Liverpool bossed the league and the aforementioned injuries will be a blow. But when I mention the additions of Gemma Davison (signed from Arsenal), Swedish International Louise Fors plus the formidable presence of Fara Williams, another former team GB player, Katrin Omarsdottir – a powerful midfield enforcer with nearly 50 caps for her native Iceland and American Amanda da Costa, another inspired signing who contributed much to the 2013 champions. I guess the message is, yes they are missing one or two very good players but don’t feel too sorry for them. There is plenty of depth in Beard’s squad and the new signings (especially Davison) does not weaken them one iota.

Liverpool Ladies FC v Doncaster Belles Rovers Ladies FC - The FA WSL

Dowie finished the top scorer in the 2013 FA WSL with a 13 goals in 14 games for the champions

And then there is goal machine Natasha Dowie, niece of Iain, and established Lioness! ‘Tats’ was the league’s top scorer last season and PFA Players Player of the season, and is quick, intelligent and good in the air. A hatrick against Everton must have been a personal highlight last time. Kate Longhurst provides a useful foil to Dowie’s rapier-like thrusts.

So the big question is can Liverpool repeat last season’s extraordinary journey?

Rolser’s absence is a big blow undoubtedly but, Beard has done well to hang on to most of his better players and you can certainly put a case for them winning the league again. Davison is an outstanding acquisition and will be important for them. If Dowie can be as prolific as last year, Liverpool stand as good a chance as any in what will be an intriguing race for the WSL 1 crown

Prediction: Close, very close!

Key Player: Natasha Dowie

The Champions get their season underway tonight against Manchester City at the Select Security Stadium.

Check out Neil’s other previews:

Arsenal Ladies

Birmingham City Ladies

Bristol Academy WFC

Chelsea Ladies

Everton Ladies

Notts County Ladies

Follow @swinfan69

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