The Lionesses face Coventry United on Sunday in their first competitive match since the Conti Cup fixture against Arsenal in early November. When the two sides last met back in February, the Lionesses took the 3 points in a 3-2 victory at Princes Park.
With back-to-back match postponements before the international break due to inclemently weather and the positive Covid-19 tests, how are the players ahead of the weekend's fixture against Coventry?
Head Coach Mellissa Phillips explained "Everyone's doing really well. Everyone's healthy and safe at this point and we're slowly but surely gaining players back as the week goes on."
"We're excited to be back at full strength, obviously disappointed that we were unfortunate to have back-to-back matches postponed but nothing that we can control from that. We felt we were in a very strong position and we felt ready for both matches. So now it's just about continuing to build on that momentum and taking it one day at a time".
What happened with the testing situation resulting in the postponements?
"We had been on the phone all day with the FA just looking at the best- and worst-case scenarios and getting their guidance from it and making sure that we were making the decisions that were best for the players and both teams involved. Ultimately, I think it was the right decision for the health and safety of everyone for the postponement. I can't thank our medical staff and the FA enough for their guidance and decision-making on that process" Phillips responded.
When asked if there is any indication that those games will be rescheduled in the coming weeks, Phillips said "No indication as of yet. I think we were looking at getting the Charlton game rescheduled before the end of the year. I think that there are some really nice breaks in the new year where we might be able to fit one in as well".
Is Coventry United the perfect opponent to get up and running again as they have also had to deal with Covid-19 challenges off the field. Can the Lionesses still build on the momentum built from win against Leicester.
Phillips responded "Yeah, I do actually think that we will take some of that Leicester momentum moving forward. It's definitely propelled us in training, and I think with the break-in games we've been able to rest players. We've been able to focus on individuals, small groups, and functional training and for us, that's where we build our momentum anyway, on the training ground and together as a team at Princes Park."
"We know that Coventry is going to be a tough competition. They're hard-working, they're physical and as with every opponent in the league, it's about who shows up and performs the best on the day. So that's what we're preparing to do this week".
What are your thoughts on the current situation surrounding fans being allowed back in some stadiums but not Princes Park? Do you think Princes Park could have safely accommodated fans?
"I'm ecstatic that there are going to be fans back in any women's football stadium at this point. So, while it's disappointing that we're not allowed fans just yet, we're making sure that everything is safe and ready to do so when we are able to. I think it's fantastic for any team that's able to have fans back in just to continually grow the game here in the UK" answered Phillips.
Lionesses defender Hannah Short returned to the matchday squad for a second-half appearance against Arsenal, how did she find playing against top-class opposition?
Short replied "There was some quality players in that Arsenal 11, and I personally love playing against players like that. It's great for defenders to come up against possibly one of the best strikers in the league and you have to bring your best performance in and try and stop them from scoring. We did quite well only conceding four goals when they put a lot more past other teams in WSL. It was a great experience".
From her own perspective, how did playing against Miedema, one of the top strikers in the world, improve her development and how she’s aiming to stay in contention to secure playing minutes?
"I personally did a lot of analysis on her and have played against her previously, so, I kind of am aware of her movements in and around the box. It makes you step up your own game and make sure that you're on the ball. As it was one of my first games back, I was quite keen to show what I'm about again. So yeah, it was good to play against her and something that I really enjoyed. I'm just keeping my head down in training, training hard, keeping a positive attitude and hopefully I can just get back into that starting eleven".
What kind of tests is Short expecting coming up against Coventry on Sunday?
"They're a hard-working side. They always come out and put up a fight. I think we'll have a bit of physical presence over them, just because we train a lot more frequently than them. Going off our last game which was against Leicester. I think we produced some really good football. Probably some of the best football that we've played to date. So, I think if you take the momentum from that, we can really punish them and hopefully score some goals".
With the game a key one to secure a further three points Phillip's was asked, how has the mood been in the Lionesses camp over the past 10 days?
"The moods been incredibly positive in the camp right now. We just continue to work hard and focus on what we can control, and I'm always impressed by the players' commitment and resilience. Something that's been important to us over the last 10 days is making sure that we all stay connected and continue to build momentum coming off the last game that we played", said Phillips.
What kind of match is Phillips expecting against Coventry on Sunday?
"It'll be a tough physical game. Ultimately, I think that we have to do our part in possession and take care of the ball to continue creating some of the attacking opportunities that we saw against Leicester. So, I'm looking forward to seeing the players showcase themselves. Once again, they've been working really hard and so very prepared and ready for the weekend ahead".
What message will Phillips give to the players ahead of the fixture?
"The message will be game by game, do all the right things throughout the week from a preparation standpoint that's going to lead to confidence and feeling ready for Sunday. And we take care of the small details. We stick together as a team and we take it one game at a time".
With the two consecutive home fixtures in the run up to Christmas, how will the team be prepared for each game in a potentially season-defining time?
Phillips responded "Each match is as important as the last or the next. So, while we do look forward to back-to-back home matches in an opportunity to continue building. We are just keeping our focus on the first one at hand. We'll start thinking about Liverpool come Monday. But right now, all focus is on Coventry".
You can follow the build-up to Sunday's game at 2pm along with live match updates via the London City Lionesses Twitter feed. Plus tune into The FA Player to watch the live stream of the game!
Written by Will Oxenham Babb