The second season of England's FA Women's Super League is getting under way with UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal LFC again the team to beat.
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The second season of England's FA Women's Super League kicks off on Sunday; UEFA.com takes a look at the eight clubs in contention for the title won last year by UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal LFC.
Arsenal LFC (2011: 1st)
Arsenal's 2011 domestic treble included their eighth straight national title having won the last seven editions of the FA Women's Premier League. They have since toured Japan and beat Göteborg FC 3-2 on aggregate to set up a UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final with 1. FFC Frankfurt. Before that, they welcome Everton, whom they beat in last month's FA Women's Cup quarter-finals. With the winter returns from the United States of Alex Scott and Gemma Davison, though the pregnant Julie Fleeting is missing, Arsenal remain favourites. However an injury to another signing, Kelly Smith, is a setback, especially in Europe.
Birmingham City LFC (2011: 2nd)
Birmingham led the table for much of the season and although Arsenal overhauled them, they still pipped Everton for second and a European debut. They have already beaten Everton 1-0 in an FA WSL League Cup game, having signed the Toffees' experienced England left-back Rachel Unitt to bolster a side led by the prolific front two of Rachel Williams and Karen Carney and an attacker returning from the US, Eniola Aluko.
Bristol Academy WFC (2011: 5th)
After a promising European debut last year, Bristol ended off the pace in the league but have a strong signing up front in the shape of Spanish international Laura del Río. "We're really happy with the players we've added to the squad," said coach Mark Sampson."We needed to tweak a few areas and add strength to be better at certain things."
Chelsea LFC (2011: 6th)
Now at a new ground in Staines, south-west London, Chelsea started with a promising defeat of Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC to set up an FA Women's Cup semi-final with Arsenal. Chelsea use their parent club's training facilities at Cobham and defender Claire Rafferty said: "They've got all the technology, they've got an indoor swimming pool – it's amazing. Even the academy building which we get to train out of is state-of-the-art. We are very lucky."
Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC (2011: 7th)
The dominant side before Arsenal's rise in the mid-1990s, there was optimism for Doncaster with the signing of experienced England winger Sue Smith, but she is out for the season with an ankle ligament tear. "Obviously this season is a complete write-off but I'm trying to stay positive," she said. "The girls and the management here have been absolutely amazing. I've got to be a supporter this year and cheer them on. But I want to come back and play for Donny."
Everton (2011: 3rd)
Out of Europe for the second season running and beaten by Arsenal in the FA Women's Cup, Everton's focus is now on their challenge to the Gunners for the league title. Alex Greenwood and Nikita Parris have been promoted to the senior squad to keep up the influx of young talent under England Under-19 coach Mo Marley, though Unitt's departure is a blow.
Lincoln LFC (2011: 4th)
Lincoln were one of two teams not in the old Premier League admitted to the WSL. With England defenders Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley, plus wingers Jess Clarke and Sue Smith, they performed excellently on their top-flight bow. Smith has gone but Australia's Collette McCallum is an experienced replacement. "There is a real desire amongst the girls to go further and be more successful, and I want to help them to achieve that," she said. "I know that Lincoln finished fourth last season, so I'd love to help them break into the top two, and qualify for Europe."
Liverpool LFC (2011: 8th)
Like Lincoln, Liverpool were 'promoted' for 2011 and found life tough without the established internationals fielded by their opponents. Teenage Welsh forward Hannah Keryakoplis and England U19 defender Dani Lea are promising additions along with New Zealand goalkeeper Aroon Clansey, who said: "I've been aware of the Women's Super League reading about it in New Zealand and the standard of football on offer, and I can't wait to get playing our first matches. The chance to play for Liverpool Ladies' team is a huge honour."