Soccer-Favourites Chelsea embracing pressure ahead of WSL title defence

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Women's Super League - Reading v Chelsea - Madejski Stadium, Reading, Britain - May 27, 2023 Chelsea's Magdalena Eriksson celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the Women's Super League Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea are favourites to continue their dominance of the Women's Super League (WSL) by winning a fifth straight title and goalkeeper Zecira Musovic said ahead of the start of the season on Sunday that they are used to dealing with the pressure.

Emma Hayes' side also reached both domestic cup finals last season, winning the FA Cup, and made the Champions League semi-finals despite missing key players including Pernille Harder, Millie Bright and Fran Kirby for large parts of the campaign.

Chelsea have won six of the last seven league titles and sealed last season's triumph with WSL records of 58 points and 19 wins, having been impeccable at home by winning all 11 games.

"That's the privilege (that comes) with playing for such a massive club," said Musovic, who was a standout performer at this year's Women's World Cup and won bronze with Sweden.

"When you come to the club you know what the demands are, what's expected of you and to win everything that's possible is something we don't have to talk about. It's an unwritten thing for us."

Chelsea have brought in experienced Canada defender Ashley Lawrence from Paris St Germain and U.S. forward Catarina Macario as cover for former captain Magdalena Eriksson and striker Harder, who both joined Bayern Munich on free transfers.

They have also signed American forward Mia Fishel, Germany midfielder Sjoeke Nuesken and England goalkeeper Hannah Hampton.

"Once again we have an amazing squad with world class players in every position," added 27-year-old Musovic, who will vie with Germany's Ann-Katrin Berger for the first choice spot.

"That could be our biggest strength, but also maybe our biggest challenge to put that together.

"I've seen the individuals, if we can put that all together ... I really believe with Emma leading we can reach even higher this year."

Hayes' recruitment process, focusing on the type of character a player is off the pitch, is "the key to succeed as a team", according to midfielder Johanna Rytting Kaneryd.

"You need not just good players, you need good people as well," added Rytting Kaneryd, who was also in Sweden's World Cup squad. "I think you can tell from the outside (we have that).

"Every player has something to add and I'm excited to see where that leads."

Chelsea kick off their title defence at home to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge, Writing by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad)

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