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Chelsea to begin Women's Super League title defence vs. London rivals Arsenal

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Chelsea will begin their Women's Super League title (WSL) defence with a trip to London rivals Arsenal after the fixture list for the 2021-22 season was released on Friday.

Manchester City, who finished second last season, travel to Everton, while their cross-town rivals Manchester United host Reading in the opening round of matches.

Promoted Leicester City will make their top-flight debut at Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur kick off their campaign at home to Birmingham City.

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The first round of fixtures is scheduled for Sept. 3-5, four weeks after the women's football event at the Tokyo Olympics.

City and United will meet in the Manchester derby on the weekend of Oct. 8-10 while the first north London derby will happen on Nov. 12-14.

"This season will see record levels of exposure and audiences as a result of our exciting new partnership with Sky Sports and the BBC, and I cannot wait to see our elite athletes showcasing their talent to the nation," the Football Association's director of the women's professional game Kelly Simmonds said in a statement.

"The return of fans is hugely exciting and I am so pleased we can welcome you back. You are the heart of our sport and we missed you last season. Your return will highlight just how special our leagues are and I am really looking forward to seeing you back where you belong, cheering on your favourite team.

"A lot of work has gone into preparing for this season and I think it is this year people will see just how far the women's game has come. We are blessed to have two such competitive leagues and I cannot wait for kick-off."

The 2021-22 WSL season is scheduled to finish on either May 7 or May 8 2022.

The league will have to contend with some leftover fixtures from the 2020-21 season with the FA Cup quarterfinals set to be held on Sept. 29. The final will be played in Wembley on Dec. 5.

The competition was suspended from January to April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.