Steph Houghton says the return of key players could not be coming at a better time for City.

Nick Cushing’s side face League Champions Arsenal on Sunday in the FA Women’s Super League, before travelling to Madrid in the Champions League last 16 second leg, as the Cup double winners prepare for another potentially season-defining week.

READ: Cushing expects reaction from wounded City

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Despite kicking-off the 2019/20 campaign in superb form with seven successive wins, City head into the clash on the back of two disappointing results, having surrendered an away goal in the midweek visit of Atletico Madrid and falling to our first defeat with a Manchester Derby setback in the Continental Cup.

There were positives however, as Sunday’s Derby encounter saw Pauline Bremer return to the starting line-up, while Georgia Stanway was also named on the bench after a six-week lay-off.

England striker Ellen White is also nearing full fitness, following a lengthy spell on the sidelines which has prevented her from making her debut, and captain Houghton admits news provides a welcome boost, ahead of a crucial run of fixtures – especially with the influential Keira Walsh suspended for three games.

“It’s good for us to get players back,” she stated. “They’re coming at important times as well.

“It’s disappointing when you lose the calibre of player of  Georgia and Ellen, although she hasn’t played yet – and the goals they contribute.

“We pride ourselves on the way we play our football – putting the ball in the back of the net.

“We have to look at why (we’ve struggled to do that over the last two games), over the next few days, because our next game is Arsenal in the league.

WATCH: City v Atletico Madrid: Match highlights

“We have to look at ourselves and make sure we get back on the training ground, fully focused on being better than we were (against United).”

Reflecting on the Derby Day disappointment, Houghton admitted her side did not produce a performance of our usual standard – but called for calm.

“It was frustrating,” she conceded. “We weren’t at our best and we didn’t play the way we want to play.

“In terms of controlling the game, I think we passed the ball well enough but in the final third, we were lacking. We weren’t clinical and didn’t put the ‘keeper under pressure.

“Their first goal was a free-kick – I don’t think it was a foul but that’s my personal opinion – and that put us on the back foot a bit.

“It wasn’t our day. It’s disappointing because we know we let ourselves down.

“We may have been a bit tired after midweek but that’s not an excuse at this Club. We recover well and we have everything available for players on and off the pitch. I’m confident in the way we prepare the team and ourselves individually.

“As a captain, there is a responsibility to pick the players up but it’s not just me – it’s all of the senior players. We have to remain positive and stick together.

“At the end of the day, it’s one game in a Conti Cup group – it’s still in our control and remains our aim to get out of the group. Reaching the quarter-finals is still possible.

“We know what we have to do. Losing hurts but over the next few days, we’ll focus on Arsenal and do the best we can.

“It’s important for us to concentrate on ourselves and be humble in victory and defeat.

“We’ll do that. This Club is about being good people.

“Now, we move onto the next one.”

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