SWPL1: Why this weekend is huge for Glasgow's three title chasers

Chloe Warrington of Celtic, Niamh Farrelly of Glasgow City, and Sam Kerr of Rangers
Glasgow City have a four-point lead over Rangers and a five-point gap between themselves and Celtic
Date: Sunday, 23 May Coverage: Watch on BBC Sport website & app from 16:00 BST, highlights on BBC Scotland at 20:30

On Sunday, Glasgow City could move to within six points of the Scottish Women’s Premier League 1 title, while Rangers and Celtic meet in a women’s derby clash that may be the biggest ever played between the Old Firm rivals.

A revamped Women’s Champions League launches next season, with Uefa promising it will “revolutionise the game”. Both sides, and league leaders Glasgow City, are vying for two precious spots.

More teams, more matches, enhanced revenue from TV and commercial partners, increased Uefa investment and prize money, and a first ever cross-subsidy with the men’s competition.

But while one of the Glasgow sides is going to be named champions, one of the trio is going to miss out on Europe altogether. BBC Scotland takes a look at a pivotal weekend in the top flight of women’s football.

What’s changed?

Until now, the Champions League has consisted of a qualifying group stage, which the top 22 teams were allowed to skip in favour of a place directly into the knockout stage. In previous years Glasgow City and Hibernian often had to navigate five-team groups to land a glamour tie.

Now, there will be qualifying grounds, preceding a group stage more along the lines of the men’s Champions League which will include all the big names. Uefa want Europe’s larger sides facing each other more often.

And due to more teams entering this year, Scotland’s rank of 14th in the coefficients has earned them two spots. That is down mainly to the performances of Glasgow City, who have reached the quarter-final stage twice; most recently of which was last season before they lost out to eventual finalists Wolfsburg.

Reach the group stage next season and whoever makes it from Scotland could welcome the likes of current holders Barcelona and other European heavyweights such as Juventus, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Lyon. It’s a platform Glasgow City, Celtic and Rangers are all desperate to be on, with all three offering full-time contracts to players in order to lift silverware at home and be among the European heavyweights.

SWPL 1 table

City close in on title

After winning 13 league titles in a row, Glasgow City do not often begin the season as underdogs, but many believed this season they would finally be toppled. And when Rangers beat them 5-0 in December days after signing three of their star players, those predictions did not appear to be far off the mark.

But fast forward to May and Glasgow City are just three wins from the title, having avenged that loss with a 2-0 win over Rangers two weeks ago, and picking up seven points from nine against Celtic. A glut of new signings have made their mark and they are undefeated in 2021 with nine wins and a draw.

They are due to face Rangers on the final day of the season, but unless the Ibrox side can close the current four-point gap before that day then the title race will already be over. Instead, Rangers – and Celtic who are still in the hunt – must hope City drop points to Hibernian, Hearts or Spartans – three teams who City boast six wins from six against this season, with a combined aggregate score of 20-5.

Of those three teams it is Hibernian, who City host on Sunday, who have given the champions the toughest tests, losing 3-2 and 2-1. The Old Firm’s best hope of keeping the title race open is for Dean Gibson’s side to deny City the three points at Broadwood.

The biggest ever Old Firm clash?

When Celtic and Rangers announced a move to full-time contracts, it was expected they would dominate women’s football in Scotland. Many had champions City to be trailing in their wake. But it has not worked out like that and now, barring a collapse from City, one of these two huge clubs will be on the outside looking in when the Champions League gets under way.

Fran Alonso’s Celtic have won both the derbies with Rangers 1-0 this season; each by late goals. But they go into Sunday’s clash a point behind Malky Thomson’s men, and defeat will likely mean an end to their chances of a top two spot.

And that means despite those two wins over their rivals, Sunday is the one they dare not lose.

Watch Rangers v Celtic and Glasgow City v Hibernian on the BBC Sport website & app from 16:00 BST, with Glasgow v Hibs also on BBC Alba

Watch highlights of all of Sunday’s SWPL1 games on BBC Scotland from 20:30


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