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Sunderland Ladies Prepare For FAWSL 1 Battle

With the FAWSL1 fixtures revealed, Becka Lesca previews what is shaping up to be a tough but exciting campaign for Sunderland Ladies.

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Exciting times are ahead for SAFC Ladies this season as earlier this week the fixtures were announced, confirming who we'd be facing in the first few games.

25/03/2015 Liverpool Ladies (a) 7:45pm

01/04/2015 Manchester City Women (h) 6:30pm

18/04/2015 Bristol Academy Women (h) 6:30pm

26/04/2015 Arsenal Ladies FC (a) 2pm

29/04/2015 Notts County Ladies FC (a) 7:30pm

09/05/2015 Birmingham City Ladies (h) 6:30pm

These games are followed by a mid-season break for the Women's World Cup in Canada, where England face France, Mexico and Columbia in Group F.

12/07/2015 Notts County Ladies FC (h) 2pm

18/07/2015 Chelsea Ladies FC (h) 6:30pm

25/07/2015 Bristol Academy Women (a) 6:30pm

08/08/2015 Liverpool Ladies (h) 6:30pm

23/08/2015 Birmingham City Ladies (a) 2pm

06/09/2015 Manchester City Women (a) 2pm

26/09/2015 Arsenal Ladies FC (h) 6:30pm

04/10/2015 Chelsea Ladies FC (a) 2pm

Our first game will be away to two year Champions Liverpool, who snatched their second successive crown from under the noses of Chelsea and Birmingham City on the final day of last season. Liverpool have spent the off season strengthening their ranks, with the addition of recently named African Women's Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala. The U20s World Cup top scorer and player of the tournament will certainly be one for us to watch in the season opener and could form a potentially lethal strike partnership with prolific Pools forward Natasha Dowie.

SAFC Ladies Head Coach Carlton Fairweather said: "We are all looking forward to the first game of the season and to be playing last season's champions in the league opener makes it even more exciting.

We know that it will be a big challenge for us to step up to the top level of women's football but it is one that we are all looking forward to."

Liverpool Captain Gemma Bonner also acknowledged, "the first game of the season against Sunderland will no doubt be a really tough opening game for us. They are a team with some really exciting young players coming through the ranks with the likes of Beth Mead and Keira Ramshaw and they will definitely provide us with a tough test as we begin our title defence. I believe this season will again prove to be the most competitive WSL season ever as the competition continues to improve year after year."

A tough start no doubt, but it had to happen at some time so this may be a good time to get it out of the way? If the girls can start the season where they left off and bag a couple of early goals to settle the nerves, any thing is possible. Who knows, but I can't wait to find out!

Our first home game brings Manchester City Ladies to the Hetton Centre, a great first home fixture and one with a little bit of nostalgia about it too as this game will see the return of SAFC alumni Jill Scott, Demi Stokes, Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton. Some familiar faces we're always happy to see in the north east, having plied their trade from academy level, although this time we'll be hoping they're on the losing side! City are another side who have strengthened in the off season, signing five new players to add to an already impressive squad.

With no sign of any new Mackem signings so far Sunderland's stingy defence will have to be on top form in these opening games against impressive opposition but there is no doubt the girls will be looking forward to the test.

Make no mistake, there are no easy games in this league, but the first few will be the toughest of tests and one that I'm sure the Lasses will pass with flying colours.