WELCOME


Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as City host Barcelona in our UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final second leg tie.

It's a 16:00 (UK) kick-off on Wednesday 31 March, with Gareth Taylor's side looking to overcome a tough deficit from the away clash. The game will be broadcast live on CITY+ so don't miss out!

As always, we hear from the boss and skipper Steph Houghton, while we take a closer look at our opposition and six of our squad take on a Spanish-themed quiz!

Meanwhile, we Alex Greenwood tells us who she feels is an 'unsung hero' within the squad, and we catch up with Keira Walsh, who shares her thoughts on an exciting few years for women's football.

Plus, we hear the latest news from the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club and we meet our Junior Cityzen of the Match...

As always, we'd love for you to get involved and share your support ahead of the game! Did you know you can tweet your messages to the Academy Stadium big screen for the players to see by using #CityBigScreen...?

You can also check out behind-the-scenes content and amazing competitions on our @CitySquareLive social media channels! Don't miss out!

We're Man City, we fight 'til the end!

A WORD FROM THE BOSS...


Hello, City fans,

We have a big task ahead of us to reach the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals - but it's a task I feel we're more than capable of achieving. Welcome to our opponents Barcelona and their manager Lluís Cortés, their players and staff.

We know we have an uphill battle - the game last week was difficult - but we still feel confident we can progress. Admittedly, a goal in Italy would have changed the outlook completely but we have proven we can score goals - we were the first team to reach 50 in the FA WSL this season. We feel we can achieve and we will be going for it.

When you look at the scoreline from last week, 3-0 doesn't suggest there were many positives to take from the game but when we looked at the stats, it was very even in terms of chances created and touches in the opposition box. We were right up there with them - we were just disappointed we drew a blank, which we hadn't done in a long time.

The chips have to go all in, in this game. I don't want the players to come off feeling we were cautious. We have to be brave. There are areas we can exploit, as we did in the first leg, and it's just a question of taking chances and keeping them out at the other end. We need to be really tight in everything we do and things have to go right for us but we will give it our very best, be on the front foot from minute one and take the game to Barca as much as we can.

We need to be positive, we need to be aggressive. This is why you want to play in the Champions League: to come up against the best players. We understand the difficulties we face but again, looking at the stats, it was a case of: they took their chances and we didn't take ours. If we'd have scored our penalty, we would have had some momentum - and it could have gone on to be a high-scoring game - so we need to make sure we take those opportunities on Wednesday.

I was really proud of the performance at the weekend against Reading. The players remained calm and managed the game well in difficult conditions, as we have done previously, and then it took a moment of magic from Lauren Hemp to win it. This team doesn't give in - they fight 'til the end - and moments like that are great for the players.

Hopefully, that fighting spirit will show through again on Wednesday. We've not seen many comebacks in the competition previously but let's be the ones to buck the trend.

We just have to concentrate on what we do. The whole squad have a real desire and determination to do well and we'll be giving it everything we can. It would be nice to score early but the longer the game goes on, if we are in touching distance, we'll remember we have proven we can score goals late on. We will give everything until the final whistle.

In other news, congratulations to all of our England girls on their call-ups to the national team. It's great to have such a big turnout and recognition of the players we have - not only at this Club but at our loan Clubs as well. Having such strong representation is something that has happened for the whole of my brief period as coach and it's something we're very proud of.

Enjoy the game.

Gareth Taylor

CAPTAIN'S NOTES


Hello City fans,

In terms of tests, they don’t come much bigger than this...

We know we have a lot to do to progress but one thing is for sure: we’ll be giving it everything. This Football Club never gives up and we pride ourselves on fighting to the end, as you’ve seen throughout the season. We give our best until the final whistle, as we did on Sunday against Reading.

I was so proud of the girls for the way we ground out that result. We knew the goal would come if we were patient and stuck to the gameplan and all it took was a moment of magic. I think you could tell from the television coverage that I was relieved! I definitely prefer being on the pitch to watching in the stands, that’s for sure!

As a group, we firmly believe nothing is ever over until it’s over and I’ve been involved in football for long enough to know that anything can happen. Sometimes, when good teams – like ourselves – are beaten, we draw a lot of criticism with a lot of people happy to see us fail, but that always brings us closer together as a squad.

Now, as we enter the end of the season with some huge games on the horizon, we need to stick together more than ever. We need positive energy and ‘big game’ mentalities and everyone needs to be ready to play when called upon.

It’s a big ask on Wednesday but I have full confidence in the team that we can turn it around. Stranger things have happened in football, especially the Champions League over the last few years! We know we’re going to have to take more risks in our play but ultimately, that’s what European football is about and when you get to this stage of the competition, you know you’re coming up against top quality sides.

There wasn’t much time to reflect on the away leg with the Reading game a matter of days later but we know we created plenty of chances in Italy and there’s no reason we can’t do so again. It was similar to the Chelsea-Wolfsburg game in that Wolfsburg had the majority of chances but it was Chelsea who finished theirs.

That’s something we’ll be aware of and of course, we’ll have to do all we can to keep the ball out of the net at the other end. We pride ourselves on clean sheets and it’s something we’ve been really good at this year. We have to ensure we do it again to give ourselves the best chance and then it’s up to our strikers to do the business.

This team is full of quality and talent and it’s the strength of our squad has been key in allowing us to perform the way we have done over the last few months. Everyone has played a part, doing a job and providing for the team when required. First and foremost, the team is the most important thing and it’s crucial that everyone does their bit.

Win, lose or draw, we’re in this together but I guarantee – 100% - that no matter who steps out onto that pitch, every single player will be giving their best to win for this Football Club.

Hopefully, it could turn out to be a very special night…

Come on, City!

Steph Houghton

GREENWOOD SALUTES
'UNSUNG HERO' MANNION


Alex Greenwood says Aoife Mannion's determination and positive attitude provides inspiration and motivation to the rest of the City squad every single day.

Mannion, who joined the Club in the summer of 2019, endured a heart-rending start to her career in sky blue, suffering an ACL injury just three months in, which sidelined the right-back until January this year.

The 25-year-old has been praised for her incredible mental strength throughout her recovery and Greenwood has hailed her defensive partner as an 'unsung hero' in the squad.

"Aoife is unbelievable," she declared. "Her attitude to get back to fitness from her ACL injury is a credit to her.

"I came in when she was around three-quarters of her way through her rehab and I've seen the groundwork she's put in to get back onto the pitch. It's fantastic.

"She's a great person and player to have around the group.

"She challenges us and she has a great winning mentality."

One of many City stars involved in the England set-up, Greenwood was already familiar with her new Club teammates upon signing in September.

The affinity between the group aided the defender's transition into life at the City Football Academy - on and off the pitch - but the 27-year-old also believes the diversity of the group has further strengthened the bond.

"It was easy for me to come here," she added. "I knew a lot of the players from England.

"The girls are great. There are so many different backgrounds - people from different places and with different interests away from the pitch - and I get on with all of them in different ways.

"I've got a lot of close friends within the group. I'm really close with Ellie Roebuck, who is one of my best mates, but I get on with everyone.

"I'm also close with Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway, Lucy Bronze, Janine Beckie... Everyone is really nice.

"The American girls are great too. I really get on with Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle - they're really good people first and foremost, as well as being fantastic players.

"We like going for coffee. I'm trying to get Georgia interested in it but she's not having it yet!"

Playing alongside skipper Steph Houghton at centre-back, Greenwood has also developed a solid partnership the City and England captain, while both defenders also offer attacking threats from set-pieces.

Greenwood's pinpoint deliveries have proven fruitful throughout the campaign but she's happy to let the captain take responsibility for the direct free-kicks!

"Me and Steph practice every day in training," she explained.

"Set-pieces are something we pride ourselves on - corners, free-kicks - although, I got some stick for one I took the other day, which didn't quite go to plan!

"If Steph's banging them in as she has been doing, I'll happily give her the ball!"

Item 1 of 22


Opposition: Barcelona

Founded: 1988 (Club Femení Barcelona)

Nickname: Blaugranes, Culés

Stadium: Estadi Johan Cruyff

Manager: Lluís Cortés

Division: Primera Division

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Honours

Primera División (2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2019/20)

Copa de la Reina (1994, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2020)

Supercopa de España (2020)

Copa Catalunya
(2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

COTIF Women's Football Tournament (2014)

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UEFA Women's Champions League history

Runners-up in 2019, Barcelona have reached their sixth quarter-final in a row in the 2020/21 campaign, having qualified for the tournament for the past nine seasons.

Their first ever clash in the competition saw the Spanish outfit lock horns with Arsenal and the Primera Division side were eliminated 7-0 on aggregate.

Since then, Barca have reached the Round of 16 stage at least in every edition, making the semi-finals on three occasions: 2016/17, 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.

In 2018/19, they progressed all the way through to the Final but were defeated 4-1 by seven-time Champions Lyon.

In addition to facing City and Arsenal, the Spanish side also locked horns with English opposition in the 2014/15 Round of 16 but were edged out by Bristol Academy 2-1 over two legs.

To reach this season's last eight, they thrashed PSV and Fortuna Hjorring 8-2 and 9-0 on aggregate.

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Player links

After four fruitful years at City, including a league and cup double and a Champions League semi-final, Toni Duggan made the switch from Manchester to Barcelona ahead of the 2017/2018 season.

The England striker spent two seasons with Barca before moving to fellow Spanish side Atletico Madrid in 2019.

Q&A WITH → KEIRA WALSH

On the back of a string of impressive performances for City - and another England call-up - we catch up with lifelong Blue Keira Walsh on an exciting few years ahead for the women's game...


Keira, congratulations on your latest call-up for England!

With the recent announcement of the new television broadcasting deal and the upcoming international tournaments, there's so much to look forward to in the coming years for women's football. What could the next few years bring for the game in this country?

"Women's football is going to keep going from strength to strength, growing and continuing to become even more competitive. There are so many world-class players in the WSL right now that it's only going to get even better for the young players like myself, Hempo and Georgia, who are playing against these players week in, week out and training with them.

"If you look at the recruitment we've made this year, we've brought in world-class players, who have won Champions Leagues and World Cups, and if they can pass that knowledge on, it's only going to benefit the Club in the future.

"With the media as well, it's just getting bigger. Looking back at when I first joined, it's crazy to think to where it's at now and hopefully, in another seven years, it will be in a totally different place."

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What does it mean to be called up for England?

"It’s massive. I think - for any player - when you’re called up to represent your country, it’s an amazing feeling and it means all of your hard work when you play for your Club is paying off.

"It’s always exciting and we’ve got two big games coming up so all the girls are really looking forward to it. We’ve not played an away game in a long time so it’ll be a nice feeling to get back out there."

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Will you still have the FA Women's Super League title race on your mind?

"There are so many City players in the squad so you’re always thinking about the games coming up but ultimately, we need to do our job for England first. Most players would also be thinking about the Olympics in the back of their mind - you’d be lying if you said you weren’t.

"Obviously, we need to put in good performances while playing for England but I think when you’re on a roll with your Club, playing well and the team has got good rhythm, sometimes you want to carry on that rhythm - but ultimately, we know when the international breaks are and we need to switch on for them and equally, switch back on when we come back to the Club."

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Will there be any 'friendly banter' with the Chelsea players?

"Not really! I don’t think there’ll be much friendly banter going on... It’s all about England while we’re on camp really.

"It’s a big season and obviously, we both want to win. It’s a massive trophy for both Clubs. It can be quite serious but ultimately, when we’re at England, we’re all teammates and we focus on doing the job together for England and playing well with each other.

"We're Lionesses for the week and then, when we go back to our Clubs, it’s about our Clubs."

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City has always put faith in young English players, including yourself! You were thrown into the 2014 Continental Cup Final against Arsenal as a teenager... How important is that for the future of the game?

"It's something this Club prides itself on and it's something that's spoken about a lot: how many players we bring through and how many English players are able to be exposed to top games. It's a credit to the likes of Hempo, Jess Park and Esme Morgan that they're still getting minutes, especially as young players, when the league is as tough as it is.

"I came in at a time where I was really lucky but we are proud of the fact we give young players opportunities - and English players in particular. You can see with the England squads how many City players are involved - and that's testament to the Club and the coaching staff."

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Looking back at that Conti Cup Final, does it feel like seven years have passed since?!

"It really doesn't! I've been here for so long and I'm happy here. The team is doing really well and we're bringing in top players.

"Each year, it feels a little bit different - a little bit more special - with the things we're working to achieve, and we've had a fresh start this season with a new manager.

"Hopefully, we can just keep working in that direction, trying to bring trophies back to Manchester in the years to come."

Q&A WITH → KEIRA WALSH

On the back of a string of impressive performances for City - and another England call-up - we catch up with lifelong Blue Keira Walsh on an exciting few years ahead for the women's game...


Keira, congratulations on your latest call-up for England!

With the recent announcement of the new television broadcasting deal and the upcoming international tournaments, there's so much to look forward to in the coming years for women's football. What could the next few years bring for the game in this country?

"Women's football is going to keep going from strength to strength, growing and continuing to become even more competitive. There are so many world-class players in the WSL right now that it's only going to get even better for the young players like myself, Hempo and Georgia, who are playing against these players week in, week out and training with them.

"If you look at the recruitment we've made this year, we've brought in world-class players, who have won Champions Leagues and World Cups, and if they can pass that knowledge on, it's only going to benefit the Club in the future.

"With the media as well, it's just getting bigger. Looking back at when I first joined, it's crazy to think to where it's at now and hopefully, in another seven years, it will be in a totally different place."

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What does it mean to be called up for England?

"It’s massive. I think - for any player - when you’re called up to represent your country, it’s an amazing feeling and it means all of your hard work when you play for your Club is paying off.

"It’s always exciting and we’ve got two big games coming up so all the girls are really looking forward to it. We’ve not played an away game in a long time so it’ll be a nice feeling to get back out there."

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Will you still have the FA Women's Super League title race on your mind?

"There are so many City players in the squad so you’re always thinking about the games coming up but ultimately, we need to do our job for England first. Most players would also be thinking about the Olympics in the back of their mind - you’d be lying if you said you weren’t.

"Obviously, we need to put in good performances while playing for England but I think when you’re on a roll with your Club, playing well and the team has got good rhythm, sometimes you want to carry on that rhythm - but ultimately, we know when the international breaks are and we need to switch on for them and equally, switch back on when we come back to the Club."

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Will there be any 'friendly banter' with the Chelsea players?

"Not really! I don’t think there’ll be much friendly banter going on... It’s all about England while we’re on camp really.

"It’s a big season and obviously, we both want to win. It’s a massive trophy for both Clubs. It can be quite serious but ultimately, when we’re at England, we’re all teammates and we focus on doing the job together for England and playing well with each other.

"We're Lionesses for the week and then, when we go back to our Clubs, it’s about our Clubs."

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City has always put faith in young English players, including yourself! You were thrown into the 2014 Continental Cup Final against Arsenal as a teenager... How important is that for the future of the game?

"It's something this Club prides itself on and it's something that's spoken about a lot: how many players we bring through and how many English players are able to be exposed to top games. It's a credit to the likes of Hempo, Jess Park and Esme Morgan that they're still getting minutes, especially as young players, when the league is as tough as it is.

"I came in at a time where I was really lucky but we are proud of the fact we give young players opportunities - and English players in particular. You can see with the England squads how many City players are involved - and that's testament to the Club and the coaching staff."

*

Looking back at that Conti Cup Final, does it feel like seven years have passed since?!

"It really doesn't! I've been here for so long and I'm happy here. The team is doing really well and we're bringing in top players.

"Each year, it feels a little bit different - a little bit more special - with the things we're working to achieve, and we've had a fresh start this season with a new manager.

"Hopefully, we can just keep working in that direction, trying to bring trophies back to Manchester in the years to come."

FANZONE


Even with a difficult first leg result, it is still fantastic to be competing with teams of Barcelona's quality in the premier European competition.

We just wish fans could have been able to welcome each other at the fixtures, as these games are so special. 'Welcome to the Academy Stadium from everyone at the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club!'

We are sure City will give it everything they have to turn the tie around. We will be cheering on from home as usual!

It was fantastic to see Gareth Taylor present Steph Houghton with a special momento to mark her 200th appearance last weekend. As well as a fantastic leader on the pitch, Steph is an inspiration to all off the pitch too. She has also been a strong supporter of our OSC since our formation in 2015 and has been top of many members' lists for that special post-game photo, as you can see...

Our OSC member Ray has started up a women's football talk show on his @womensfootballtoday YouTube channel. The intention is to offer lively debate on the women's game for fans of all teams and we wish them luck with this new venture. Please check it out and join in if you can.

Last weekend's game against Reading saw our latest OSC 'watch-along' - again members from around the world chatted and celebrated 'together.' Although different, these virtual get-togethers have become one positive side effect of being unable to attend the games.

Good luck once again to the team on Wednesday afternoon, and a quick reminder that our social media channels are open if anyone needs a chat while these difficult times continue.

Come on, City!

MCWFC Official Supporters Club

JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH

Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Tulisa Gibson.

Tulisa started following football at around six years old, thanks to her City-supporting stepdad. Her first women's game was the 2019 Women's FA Cup Final between City and West Ham United at Wembley - and she received her first shirt!

"It was a long but exciting journey down to London. When we arrived, the stadium was a lot bigger than I was expecting! I was a bit nervous but then my nerves settled and the atmosphere was amazing! City played very well and we won!"
Tulisa

Since then, Tulisa and her stepdad have become Seasoncard holders with the women's team - and can't wait for fans to be allowed back into stadiums to "support the best team in the world!"

Tulisa's favourite player is Keira Walsh, who of course, scored on that special day at Wembley!

Enjoy the game, Tulisa!

If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!