Women's Team

Brighton v City: Taylor on team news

Gareth Taylor says that both Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze are in contention for Sunday’s return to FA Women’s Super League action away at Brighton.

It will be our first game in almost a month since our thrilling 3-2 win away at Birmingham in mid-December.

City's last two scheduled games ahead of the Christmas break - a Continental Cup trip to Leicester and league visit of Reading - were both postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases in the squad.

But City were boosted by the return of England skipper Houghton to the training pitch earlier this week after several months out with an Achilles injury.

And previewing the trip to the South Coast, the boss said the captain and fellow Lionesses icon Bronze – who had been due to return to action before Christmas – were both in contention for this weekend.

“Yeah, it’s great to have Steph back. She is a big influence for us She’s our leader, our captain. We’ve missed her,” Taylor asserted.

“Lucy is back (too) and wasn't able to make her comeback before Christmas. It’s a big boost for everyone to see them.

“We’ll see (whether Steph can figure this weekend). We are reluctant to commit to anything at the moment, with the ever-changing landscape. Steph will be with us.

“We need the best plan for her in the next week or two where we have high volume of games.”

Though boosted by the welcome return of Houghton and Bronze, the boss also revealed that City had been hit by two new positive COVID-19 cases.

And with cases surging not just in professional sport but throughout the country right now, he said team planning was being done on a day to day basis at the moment.

“It’s ever changing. Every 24, 48 hours when we test, it’s throwing up situations with players and staff,” Taylor added.

“We lost a couple of players the other day to COVID. It’s changing all the time. We are in a good place.

“All clubs face this issue, and we need to try and limit the contacts to give ourselves the best possible chance.

“Everyone at some stage is encountering this problem. We had it before Christmas and three WSL games this weekend have been cancelled.

“We are separate from the men’s team. We are in separate bubbles. But we have to make sure we sing the same message to players about being safe, limiting contact etc because this virus is still there.

“We don’t want to call any more games off. It’s a frustration for one team or the other. We want to stay away from that and continue to play our games.

“It’s good to see players looking fit with good energy after the break. We tried to maintain fitness during break, either remotely or bringing players in.

“We have a tough schedule - I think it’s five games in 13 days - so we need the biggest pool possible to choose from.”

The boss also provided a fitness update on Esme Morgan (leg fracture), Ellie Roebuck (calf) and Chloe Kelly (ACL) as they continue their recovery from long-term injuries.

“Esme and Chloe are still a way off but looking great in terms of their recovery,” Taylor added.

“Esme is not surprising because she does everything to the letter, and she is ahead of schedule and she’s coming on well, but seeing her (back) will be a couple of months.

Chloe Kelly is in a good way, I’ve done some technical work with her, but again we need to be patient and it still will be a period of time before we see her.

Ellie Roebuck has had a few setbacks in her recovery but at the moment, without wishing to jinx things, she is looking good.

“It will be after this condensed period of games before we see her back on the pitch and available.”

Brighton currently sit just above City in fifth place in the FA Women’s Super League table, holding a two point advantage on Taylor’s squad.

City recorded an emphatic 7-1 win away to the Seagulls almost 12 months ago but Taylor said he was anticipating a tough challenge this time round on our return to action.

“They've made changes and even changes in this window, They've been able to bring players in from Sweden. There’s progression at Brighton,” Taylor warned.

“They have invested in their training facility. There’s a big financial push from the club and they want to push to the next level, which is probably European football.

“When you have that, it makes the league more exciting. We've already seen that.

“For us, it’s about making sure we never underestimate opposition. When we get things right, we will be comfortable, when we don't things are more difficult. To expect to be at 80% and beat Brighton is unrealistic.

“We need to be at our best and clued up on details to stand the best chance.”

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