What is left to play for on the final day of 2021/22 season

The 2021/22 WSL season has been a real landmark campaign for women’s football in England.

Alongside continued commercial backing from Barclays, this was the first year of a lucrative major broadcasting deal with Sky Sports and the BBC, which has brought the WSL to the attention of literally millions more fans over the course of the last eight months.

More special one-off games have been held at the likes of Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Amex Stadium, while others have made permanent homes of the same stadiums used by their club’s men’s team.

In terms of the action itself, another year further into the fully professional era has served to shrink the disparity between the top clubs and the rest ensuring no result is a foregone conclusion.

Covid-19 has still caused problems at times, with a host of postponements during a difficult period for the league in winter, but overall, what an incredible success 2021/22 has been.

It’s not over just yet, either.

The relegation scrap have you already been settled this week, but one more round of fixtures played simultaneously at midday on Sunday 8 March will see several outstanding things decided, including the biggest of them all – the title race.

Contenders: Chelsea, Arsenal

Looking for a third consecutive WSL title, Chelsea have the advantage ahead of Arsenal on the final day. The Blues are one point clear, having only overtaken Arsenal in the last few weeks.

The Gunners had led from the start, actually beating Chelsea on the opening weekend back in September, but saw their lead eaten into during a poor run of only one win in five games in January and February and were eventually leapfrogged at the end of March.

It is in Chelsea’s hands. They know a win against Manchester United at home will secure the trophy, regardless of what Arsenal do against West Ham on the other side of London.

A draw might still be enough if Arsenal also drop points, but the Gunners will be determined to win so that, in the unlikely event of a Chelsea slip up, they will snatch the title at the death.

Most likely outcome: Chelsea, champions; Arsenal runners-up

Contenders: Manchester City, Manchester United

The battle for the WSL’s third and final Champions League place has swung in the favor of Manchester City in the final stretch of the season.

Gareth Taylor’s City have overcome a troubled start to the campaign to win eight consecutive league games to close the gap on Marc Skinner’s United and leapfrog them this week.

United were in with a great chance of breaking up the established top three until draws against West Ham and Aston Villa since the start of March, plus late equalisers conceded against Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal, saw them lose their edge.

City’s game in hand against Birmingham on Wednesday night was the win that saw them go ahead. They now only need to match United’s final day result to secure third place.

City travel to Reading, a game they should comfortably win based on current form, while United travel to Chelsea, having never yet beaten the Blues in any competition.

United will only finish third in the unlikely event that they win and City lose, with the goal difference also considerably in the latter’s favor after several big recent wins.

Most likely outcome: Manchester City, third; Manchester United, fourth

Contenders: West Ham, Brighton, Reading

Top half bragging rights are still up for grabs for a few clubs if they can end the season on a high.

Tottenham, having fallen out of the top three race late on, have already wrapped up fifth place in what is already their best ever season after marked improvement under Rehanne Skinner.

But sixth place, the final position in the top half, is available to West Ham, Brighton and Reading.

West Ham will start the weekend in sixth place, two clear of both Brighton and Reading. But the Hammers may struggle to add to their tally by virtue of facing an Arsenal side with the title on the line. Reading, who are now nine without a win since mid-February, are also as unlikely to pick up points against Manchester City. It could therefore leave the door open for Brighton.

The Seagulls, who also finished sixth last season, have been difficult to predict in 2021/22, enjoying some great results and heavy defeats in equal measure. They will fancy their chances to beat Everton at home and jump ahead of West Ham, though.

Most likely outcome: Brighton, sixth; West Ham, seventh; reading eighth

The relegation fight almost lasted until the final day but was concluded on Wednesday night with Birmingham’s defeat to Manchester City.

Given how the Blues, who were one of the founder members of the WSL in 2011, had struggled in the first half of the campaign – they took only one point from their first 10 games – it looked like it might have been over much sooner once Leicester started pulling away in January and February.

But Birmingham rallied in April as the Foxes began to sink again, even taking Chelsea close at the start of May. But they needed to beat a rampant Manchester City on Wednesday night to keep their hopes alive until the final game and it wasn’t to be.

They will be replaced in the WSL next season by Women’s Championship winners Liverpool.

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