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Houghton: January could define our season

CAPTAIN'S CALL: Steph Houghton has urged City to carry on the momentum built up before the Christmas break

CAPTAIN'S CALL: Steph Houghton has urged City to carry on the momentum built up before the Christmas break

City and England captain Steph Houghton believes the next few weeks could determine how the Blues’ season pans out.

Nick Cushing’s side return to action on Sunday with a trip to Bristol, sitting level on points with Arsenal atop the league table, before hosting Brighton and Hove Albion in the Continental Cup quarter-finals.

Next week also heralds the draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup and with City seeking to clinch a hat-trick of domestic trophies, Houghton asserts her side must carry December’s fine form into the New Year.

READ: Cushing wins LMA Manager of the Month award

WATCH: 30 years of women's football | Round table part one

GALLERY: Training | Build-up to Bristol

“It feels good to be back,” she told ManCity.com. “Of course, it’s always nice to have a little bit of time away, spending time with family and friends, but there’s been a real buzz since we got back in training.

“We were all really excited to kick things off again and we feel in great shape. Naturally, even over the festive period while we were away, we had to do our own training regimes to ensure we were ready – and we’re raring to go again, as we enter another tough period.

“There are some vital games coming up and each one is equally important. We know we could have started the season better but overall, we’re happy with how things have panned out domestically.

“Still, with every game, we’re improving and we found a little bit of form and momentum before the end of the year, which will hopefully carry us through.

“January is a potentially season-defining month. Psychologically, starting well and continuing how we left off in December is huge for us as a Club and it sends out a message to the rest of the teams that we’re still here to be talked about and ranked as a good team.

ACTION SHOT: Caroline Weir races for the ball.

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“It’s tight at the top and we have to make sure we continue to win our games and put pressure on the teams around us.”

City have an impressive record against the Vixens, unbeaten since our debut season and having won our last five visits to Bristol.

However, Tanya Oxtoby’s side held the Blues to a costly 2-2 draw at the Academy Stadium in September and although the encounter proved a special one for Houghton, as she netted a worldie to equalise late on, the skipper demands an improved display at the Stoke Gifford Stadium.

“Bristol have improved a lot over the last season-and-a-half,” she stated. “Whenever we play them, it’s always a tough game.

“Credit to them and their players – they’re very well-organised. They’ll try to make life difficult, blocking up and looking to hit us on the counter.

“We have to go into the game with the right mentality and focusing on our own performance. Although we’ve beaten them by big margins before, we went on to drop points earlier this season.

“With the quality and fitness levels of our side, if we play the way we have been doing, hopefully, we’ll come back with three points.“

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