Women's Team

City v Bristol: Taylor on team news

City v Bristol: Taylor on team news
Caroline Weir and Karima Taieb could make welcome returns to action in Wednesday’s Continental Cup quarter-final tie against Bristol City.

Weir is yet to feature in 2022 due to COVID-19, while Taieb last played against Brighton and Hove Albion in our first game of the New Year, though she was named on the bench against Leicester City in our final group stage fixture.

Teenage goalkeeper Khiara Keating has deputised between the sticks with Academy goalkeeper Grace Pilling selected as substitute back-up.

Taylor says Taieb and Weir could return against the Robins but has been pleased with the way his budding shot-stoppers have conducted themselves, having been thrown into the deep end.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the Head Coach was asked of the latest team news.

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“Caz has been back for the last couple of days,” he replied. “There's a strict return protocol we use. Depending on whether players have had symptoms or not, they usually can jump a step or two.

“It's similar to what we had with Bunny, who was able to get some exposure recently [against Aston Villa]. With Caroline, it’ll be similar but she’s probably a couple of days behind Bunny in that respect.

“We’ll see [about Khiara]. We have a fair chance Karima will be back. Hopefully, that will help.

“Khiara’s handled herself well; Grace is still in school so getting her in for training is tough but the way she’s handled things is really mature.

“To have come down and be with us for a few hours’ notice was fantastic. We’ll see how Karima checks in today and make a decision tomorrow.

“Outside of that, there are a couple of niggles from Saturday, which we’ll check on but we’re looking forward to the game and to be playing at home.

“We’re looking forward to coming back to our place and a really exciting quarter-final to play in.”

This week yielded further cause for celebration with the news lifelong City fan Esme Morgan has signed a three-year contract extension – the third City star this month to have committed her future to the Club, following in the footsteps of Lauren Hemp and Steph Houghton.

Reflecting on the news, Taylor was delighted, hailing Morgan ‘a star of the future.’

“We’re really pleased,” he added. “We’ve missed Esme from the beginning of the season [due to her leg injury] but in my time here, I’ve been really impressed with her.

WATCH: Morgan: City feels like home

“I was expecting big things from her this season, especially with the way she adapted to many positions last season, but her all-round performances were great and she was someone we felt was a star of the future and we still believe that.

“She had experience at Everton a couple of seasons ago, which I think really helped her. The brief when I first came was: she’d probably embark on another loan in the WSL but after working with her, within a couple of weeks I was wanting to keep her and with the quality that she brings and adaptability she has, it was a no-brainer.

“I don't think it was anything magical I did, if you work with her, you realise the quality.

“I never felt at that point that we were able to let a player of that quality go. It’s similar with Jess Park: are young players going to play enough or provide a loan and come back better?

“One of the big things with Esme is her believing how good she can be. She’s very humble and level-headed. She broke into the England squad and was due to go away again before her injury and no surprises the way her rehab has gone – all I hear is: ‘She’s ahead of schedule.’ She’s a credit to herself and great to work with.

“It’s great. It’s a real success story from the academy and obviously with Khiara and Grace being involved in the last couple of games too, it’s moving in the right direction.

“We appreciate there’s work to be done there as well to continue to produce more on that conveyor belt as well but when things like this happen, it’s a real pat on the back at the club.

“I think this contract represents that with her and hopefully, we can get her back on pitch soon. It’s great news for the Club and we’re really pleased to have Esme with us.”

City head into the midweek clash in excellent form, having won our last five on the bounce. Although his side hold home advantage against Championship opposition, Taylor expects no drop in standards against last season’s finalists, with City setting sights on a fourth success in the competition.

“We’ve monitored them and kept an eye,” he continued. “They had a good win at the weekend and are in a false position in their league.

WATCH: Taylor praises ‘leaders’ Bronze and Greenwood

“They’ve got good physicality in their team, won their group in Conti Cup qualification so they’re certainly not a team to be underestimated and we won’t be doing that.

They’re still full-time and obviously going to be there or thereabouts. There’s not a huge gap. They were in the league last season, they got to a final which nobody would have predicted.

“I know there’s been a lot of changes but like I say: they’re a very aggressive team. We expect it to be a really tough game.

“[Bristol manager Lauren Smith] has adapted well to it. Sometimes when you make a lot of changes you never know how it’ll go – sometimes you might get short term but sometimes you have to wait longer.

“They’re aggressive, they take the game to teams. We studied that against Reading when they played them in the cup. Albeit teams change in the cup, they’ll provide a tough opposition and there’s a reason they’re in the quarter-finals.

“We have to manage a heavy workload but we won’t take our eyes off this one at all. We studied them in the first five or ten minutes but that’s all part of it and the team are in a really good place. We’re looking to see a strong performance again.

“[We have] A bit of rhythm I don't see any massive change [from the start of the season] except a bigger player pool.

“New players take time to adapt and we’re scoring goals freely and not giving opportunities away. Our build-up play and the way we try to impose our game was always there. It's just the game’s settled in the two boxes – that’s the big difference.

“For me, I had one opportunity [to compete in the Conti Cup]. We had a tough group and were seconds away from holding on against Chelsea to go to a semi, where you feel that would have been toughest game.

“We were close last season and that was a big disappointment because it was an opportunity to win a great trophy – one all teams respect and one we’re certainly going for.”

CITY V ARSENAL

Tickets for City's first home league game of 2022 - a crunch FA WSL clash against Arsenal - are now on sale.

Don't miss your chance to cheer on Gareth Taylor's side on Sunday 23 January. Kick-off 18:45 at the Academy Stadium.

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