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Reflection on the season start as the Lionesses turns their focus to Crystal Palace

The London City Lionesses are now holding a virtual press conference ahead of the up-coming games. This week Head Coach Lisa Fallon and Forward Liz Ejupi, were the ones to face the questions around Covid-19, International call-ups, the Sheffield defeat and a look forward to Crystal Palace.

Firstly, reflecting on the different experience of pre-season season training and the return to league fixtures, within the new Covid-19 protocols Liz explained, “I just think the hardest part as a player was at the beginning, being in smaller groups. We were really excited to get back. So, we had to kind of do individual training, group sessions then eventually all together, which we'd all been looking forward to for a long time. I guess that was just a bit of an adjustment, and then the Covid testing, but we’re all used to it now. We just get on with it and yeah once we're here it feels normal.”

With the announcement this week, that new season signings Alli Murphy and Hayley Nolan have been named in Vera Pauw’s Ireland Squad, for their UEFA Women’s Euro Qualifier against Germany next Saturday, Lisa was asked about what this meant for the Club, “It’s excellent. I want to see all of our players kick on and reach the highest levels that they can reach and you know, there's quite a few others in the group that have international aspirations and Juliet (Kemppi), she's a Finland International, she would be away in this international break only their game’s been postponed until March.

“We've a lot of players who've been involved with England's underage teams and they will look to get themselves into the mix and be in the thoughts of the England set-ups as well. I know we've got a really ambitious group here and a group that is hardworking and understands what it takes to be a top-level professional.”

Do the other players take pride in seeing teammates being called up to their National teams? Clearly the answer is yes as Liz explained, “Yes. Definitely. I think it's good to see someone reach that level especially someone from your team. Not only is it inspirational but it's good for them. You know, they must be feeling on top of the world and I'm excited for Alli and Hayley, Hayley’s been in there before, but this is Alli's first time and that's great for her. She said to me to help her get ready at training this week. And she's had a really good week. But no, it's really good to see, you always want to see people around to succeed.”

So back to the league business and the focus this week has been preparing for Crystal Palace and delivering a really solid performance to secure three points.

The first fixture saw a defeat against Sheffield United, Lisa reflected, “Listen, they're all big games at this level. Every game and every opposition will present a really different challenge. So, you know, we didn't get the start that we want to, and everybody feels really strongly about that. The one thing I've picked up from the group and again this week is that we're all so focused on just going out there now and getting a really good performance.

“We know that the game against Crystal Palace will be a tough challenge; we've had the opportunity to watch their game from last week. It will be a tough game and we know that we need to be ready and on it and we'll have no doubts we will get the performance that we plan for.”

Liz added “I think it was a disappointing result. But as Lisa has said there are positives that we have taken forward into training this week. And as a player you just want to get back on the pitch and work on it and get a result against Palace. I think it's going to be a tough game, a big test against Palace. It's a local rivalry, everyone’s up for it, it's a night game as well, which always has a bit more of a buzz around it. So that's nice. I think it was a tight game at the weekend if we'd got a goal here or there, it could have been a completely different game, but that's football and now we just got to put it right this weekend."

“It’s a tough League, it's so much harder than it has been the last two years and we know that and everyone knows that. You really don't know what to expect but we've got to respect every single team this year and just play our game. I think if we keep working on our game and our identity, we could be really hard to beat this year. So that's all we've got to focus on I think.”

With a recovery session on Monday the squad’s concentration has switched to the weekend ahead. The energy and mood in the camp is good, intensity is high, everyone is clear what they need to work on. Lisa was asked what kind of test will Palace provide this weekend?

“I think they are a strong physical team; they've brought in some new signings, so we know that they have added quality this year. They're also an opposition that we will respect massively, and we know that we absolutely have to be on our game and bring our A-game to this fixture and I think if we can, we should be able to get a really good performance and that’s the aim.”

Whilst the focus is on Saturday, there was also the opportunity to quiz Liz on her aspirations for the season as whole.

“I'm an attacking player. I'm a striker. I want to create as many goal opportunities as possible. I want to score as many goals for this club as I can, to just win games for us. But I also enjoy being a team together on the pitch. I want to try and develop of a quick style of football with the players around me. So, for me it is about creating partnerships with players. That's what I enjoy the most, so I think on a personal level I just want to improve every day at training on and learn something new. I want to gain in confidence in order to perform for the club and I think each player wants to do that. So, I think those are my goals really to push on.”

The Lionesses play Crystal Palace away Tonight (Saturday) at Bromley FC. Kick Off 7pm and you’ll be able to follow the game on twitter and a full match replay will be available on the FA Player.

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