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Duggan warns of Chelsea backlash

Toni Duggan expects Chelsea to be even more fired up for Thursday's visit of City, following their FA Cup final defeat.

Though the Staines outfit will have had less preparation for the encounter, Duggan believes their cup setback will provide added motivation to claim victory against Nick Cushing's side.

"It's a massive game," she told mcfc.co.uk. "Every game against Chelsea is; especially this one as we're both at the top of the table.

"It's going to be a tough one. They'll be bitterly disappointed, after losing the FA Cup final so I'm sure they'll be looking to bounce back whereas we haven't played in a while.

"It's an opportunity for us to get back on the pitch and continue our good form.

"We feel good to go. Sometimes a break can have a negative effect but it's what you do on the training pitch that counts.

"We had a tough week in training last week and then we had an in-house game to put us in the right frame of mind for Thursday."

The two sides have already met once this season - in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, as Chelsea snatched a last-gasp win in extra time.

Duggan, who has netted five goals in eight appearances for City against the Londoners, expects a very different game on Thursday and has also played down the labelling of the clash as a title decider.

"I don't think it is," she stated. "It's a massive game - one we have to win and of course want to win, but we want to win every game.

"We know we can't afford to slip up in this league but I don't think it's a two-horse race.

"We had a slow start last season and by the end, we were up there pushing for the title. Arsenal, Liverpool and perhaps some of the other teams will bounce back from tough starts and we shouldn't count those teams out."

Having scored 13 goals without reply, City currently lie top of the table with a 100% record from five matches - three points ahead of Chelsea, though Hayes' side have a game in hand.

For the first time in the WSL, Cushing's side have started the season strongly - a fact Duggan feels is down to smart recruitment and a positive, hard-working team ethic.

"We've started this season very well," she declared. "We've added to our squad - Jane Ross and Kosovare Asllani have come into attack - and defensively, the girls are gelling.

"The core of the team have been together for two years and now, we've reached a level of consistency.

"We've been unfortunate to suffer big injuries with the likes of Izzy Christiansen and Keira Walsh but we've managed to carry on and perform.

"We're looking forward to having those players back in the coming weeks and months."

The England star, who missed the victory at Birmingham with a knock but returned with a goal at Sunderland, also hopes to have put her injury problems behind her.

She added: "I feel good. My main aim going into the start of the season was to avoid injuries but of course, in football, you can't predict what's going to happen.

"Unfortunately, I picked up a knock early on which was frustrating but I'm back fit now and I feel I'm in good shape.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there against Chelsea and hopefully, putting in a good performance."

Kick-off at Staines Town FC is at 7:30pm. We'll have live coverage on Twitter, a match report shortly after full-time, plus reaction and highlights over the coming days.

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