Chelsea will defend their WSL title this season

Credit: PA

Defending champions Chelsea face a trip to rivals Arsenal on the opening weekend of the 2021/22 Women’s Super League season between 3-5 September.

The WSL and Women’s Championship fixtures were released at 9am BST on Friday morning and have thrown up a tricky-looking start for Emma Hayes’ side.

Chelsea will travel to all three of their nearest title challengers, Arsenal, Manchester United and last season’s runners-up Manchester City, inside their first four away fixtures, with home matches against Everton and Brighton – who also finished in the top half last term – sandwiched in between.

The 2021-22 season will be the first with the new BBC and Sky Sports broadcasting deal, which will include regular games on mainstream channels including BBC One, BBC Two and Sky Sports Main Event, greatly increasing the audience exposure for England’s top tier.

The broadcast picks and kick-off times for the opening weekend are yet to be revealed. Elsewhere in the opening round, newly-promoted Leicester City will travel to face Aston Villa, while Manchester City go to Everton.

In the Women’s Championship, which starts a week earlier between 28-29 August, promoted sides Sunderland and Watford will be away against Coventry United and Durham respectively, while title hopefuls Liverpool host London City Lionesses.

In recent years, major domestic silverware in the women’s game has been dominated by Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal, and the games between those sides have played major roles in deciding the destiny of the title, so with that in mind, here are five of the other key fixture dates to look out for.

WSL 2021-22 season: Five key fixtures

Arsenal vs Man City: 24-26 September
On only the third weekend of the campaign, Arsenal host Manchester City. The game is one of many in a testing start for new Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall, who must face Chelsea, Man City and Everton (three of last season’s top five) in his first three home fixtures, as well as trying to progress through to the Champions League group stage.

Birmingham vs Aston Villa: 12-14 November
Manager Carla Ward switched from Birmingham to neighbours Aston Villa this summer and her first trip back to face her old side comes in November, when St Andrew’s is expected to host its first second-city women’s derby.

Man City vs Chelsea: 12-14 November
The first meeting of last season’s top two will come on the seventh matchday of the season. In April, these sides played out a 2-2 thriller at the Academy Stadium, with Chelsea holding on for the draw late on which ultimately made the difference as they won the title by a two-point margin.

Chelsea vs Man City 4-6 February
The reverse fixture between these great modern rivals of the women’s game is at the start of February. They each only lost just one league game last season, and the meetings between them could be pivotal once again.

Man City v Man Utd: 11-13 February
At a key point in the season comes a Manchester derby at the Academy Stadium and, for the hosts, it will come a week after the trip to Chelsea and just two games after hosting Arsenal, in what looks like a potentially crucial period for Gareth Taylor’s team.

2021-22 WSL and Championship opening round fixtures