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Melissa Phillips spoke to reporters ahead of our Vitality Women’s FA Cup clash with Portsmouth.
The Lionesses host Portsmouth on Sunday [8 January] in our first match since the festive break, with a fourth-round fixture versus Tottenham Hotspur on the line.
When asked about the club’s work over the festive period, Phillips said:
“We resumed training this week and the players are in great spirits. We don’t normally have as much time away in between fixtures, but the break came at the perfect time to physically and mentally rechange. It’s important to have that time to be able to maintain the focus that we have throughout the first half of the season. We’re feeling great, it’s business as usual, and we’re looking forward to the slate of games coming up.”
When asked a follow up question on the same topic, she added:
“In the past, when we were building our culture, there was a lot of contact over the holiday period when it came to checking in with the players and establishing a growth mindset through our winter packets. But our culture is so strong at this point that it was really just time for us to take a rest and enjoy being with our families.
"It’s like we’ve never been away, but we came back refreshed and recharged. We kept in touch with the team, they had their tasks to do to keep themselves fit, but the most important thing was to rest, relax, and enjoy the hard work that we’ve put in throughout the first half of the season."
When quizzed on team selection dilemmas ahead of the Portsmouth match, the American answered:
“We’re confident in our team selection regardless of who we put on the pitch. We spoke about it in the week: our objective for the weekend is to advance [to the next round] and our next objective is to make sure that we’re prepared for the next games. We want to make sure that as many players as possible have minutes, so they have that match freshness and fitness. We know Portsmouth will be a fantastic challenge for us, leading into a couple of difficult games.
When questioned about the strength of Portsmouth’s defence, Phillips responded:
“I know that they’ll come ready to play. I think, like any cup fixture, you use it to really measure yourself to see where you fall short and where you are stretched – especially when you are competing at the top of the league and you play a team from the league above. I’m sure they’ll be difficult to break down if they sit players behind the ball. Whatever we are presented with at the weekend, we feel prepared.”
When asked about the challenges posed by playing a team from a lower division, she said:
“Regardless of who we’re playing, we’re still always going to assume the underdog mentality. [Earlier in the week], we had a good conversation about where we are, relishing the hard work that has put us in this position, and making sure we enjoy things. It’s so important to take the pressure off of ourselves and just focussing on our performance as we do week in and week out. In the end, results will speak [for themselves].”
When presented with a question about the transfer window, Phillips commented:
“If you look at the club’s growth over our time here, it has been fantastic every single year and we’re certainly looking to improve ourselves in this window as well. But, at the end of the day, it’s always been about the right fit and finding someone who can add value because we have an incredibly strong squad. We have a small squad, which I quite like because it keeps everyone extremely competitive in sessions – which I’ve spoken about before.”