Bristol City .vs. London City Lionesses (Barclays Women’s Championship)
Robins High Performance Centre on Sunday 22 January at 15:00, live on the FA Player
On Sunday [22 January], London City Lionesses will arrive at the Robins High Performance Centre with a clear request from their head coach: focus only what they can control.
“It’s business as usual this week,” head coach Melissa Phillips explained at her weekly media availability. "There is obviously a lot of belief in the group after a fantastic performance at the weekend.”
There is a sense of calm at Princes Park, especially after the Lionesses’ statement win over Crystal Palace.
London City enter a pivotal weekend of play in the Barclays Women’s Championship in sole possession of top spot, with a clash versus fellow promotion chasers Bristol City next on the schedule.
However, Phillips stressed the importance of every fixture in a division that provides zero margin for error.
“We know the occasion,” the San Francisco-born tactician said when asked about the prospect of facing a direct rival. “But, at the same time, every match is a big occasion for us. This league is incredibly competitive, so we look forward to playing another high-quality game at the weekend.”
Bristol City trail the Lionesses by a point, but have a game-in-hand and are five matches unbeaten in all competitions.
“There are obviously things that we can take into our control, including how we travel and prepare on the pitch, but we know it’s always been a high-level match when we play against Bristol City,” added Phillips. “We expect it to be the same this time around and are looking forward to the opportunity.”
Shania Hayles is a player to watch for the Robins. The 23-year-old wide forward has made an electric start to the season, recording seven goals and one assist in all competitions.
However, the Lionesses have their own ensemble of fearsome forwards to keep an eye on, with every member of the attack recording at least a goal or an assist against Crystal Palace.
“I can’t say enough good things about our forward unit,” said Phillips. “They’re often putting themselves in front of goal with a lot of chances throughout the match and we were able to convert them against Crystal Palace.
“We’ve really spent the last month really focussed on our final third. Whether it’s double-movements, balls into space, or finishing, we spent a lot of time focusing on the finer details and you can see that the effort is paying off for our front line.
“They’re certainly capable of scoring a lot of goals and they’ve been productive in terms of the opportunities they have created. We also recently spoke about how there isn’t pressure on any single player to be our marquee scorer because we know goals can come from anywhere in our team.”
London City also have weapons to watch in the wide areas, with wing-back Lois Heuchan also recording an assist at Hayes Lane.
“Everyone wants to score and add assists, so it feels nice to be able to help the team in that way,” the 26-year-old told reporters on Thursday [19 January].
When asked to preview this weekend’s clash with the Robins, Heuchan added: “There’s not much between us at this point, but we take each match one a time and trust the process that are coaches provide. We’re really focussing on ourselves, but we know Bristol City are a really good team.”
Tickets are available to purchase from Bristol City, with the match also available live on the FA Player for supporters unable to travel to the Robins High Performance Centre.