Women's Team

Play the game not the occasion: Walsh’s message for the derby

Play the game not the occasion: Walsh’s message for the derby
Keira Walsh says Manchester City must focus on the job in hand rather than the significance of the occasion in this weekend’s Manchester derby.

City face Women’s Super League leaders Manchester United on Saturday, when we will be aiming to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Reds to close the five-point gap that separates the two teams.

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A lifelong Blue, games don’t come much bigger for Walsh, but she feels it is important the emotion of the eagerly anticipated encounter doesn’t become the overwhelming focus.

“I try not to be too emotional about it,” explained the midfielder.

“Gareth [Taylor] is such a logical manager and all of the players are following that. We haven’t spoken about the game too much – more what we’re doing, our principles and how we play.

“We can’t focus too much on the occasion – we’re all truly focused on the game.

“It’s a big one! United have started the season well. We’d be lying if we said we hadn’t kept an eye on the league table.

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“We’re all excited. We’ve kick-started our season the way we’ve wanted. It took us time to settle down and we’ve definitely found our rhythm with good performances.”

City are unbeaten in four games in all competitions and come into the game on the back of an emphatic 8-1 win over Bristol City, whilst United, who have won five of their opening six league games, recorded an impressive 1-0 victory over perennial title contenders Arsenal.

Walsh respects the challenge Casey Stoney’s side present and is expecting both teams' recent form to contribute to an exciting contest.

“In a derby, both teams are always going to want to bring a little bit extra,” she added.

“With the run they’ve been on, they’re going to want to keep that going but we want to stop that and put three points on the board ourselves. It’s going to be a great game – they’re in good form and we are too.

“They’ve got good players – a lot of young players who I’ve played with at England who are coming through the Lionesses – and they’ve brought in some good signings.

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“Ella Toone, who played for City is a class player and Millie Turner, who I used to play against when I was younger, is always up there as one of the best players I’ve played against.”

Whilst the form book and the rivalry make this game a must watch, the absence of fans at Leigh Sports Village will make it less of a spectacle and Walsh admit the derby experience will be different without City’s fantastic support.

“Our fans are brilliant – home or away – and the occasion of a derby is not going to be the same without fans,” she said.

“With United at home, it’s probably more of an advantage for us as they have quite noisy fans but with the way we play, we don’t really try to go off emotion too much.

“Our performances are logical – not emotional – and that’s what we’ll be looking for on Saturday.”

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