Carla Ward: We will have to be at our best

We are all going to have to step it up.

Carla Ward

Head Coach Carla Ward is expecting a tough game when Brighton visit on Sunday afternoon in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.

The fixture will mark the third time the two sides have met this season, with Brighton winning 2-0 on the opening day and Blues beating the Seagulls on penalties in the FA Cup quarter-final.

It will also be Blues’ first fixture since 9 December, with the club’s last three fixtures being postponed.

Speaking to the press on Friday, the boss discussed her expectations for Sunday’s clash against Hope Powell’s side.

“Brighton are a great side; Hope has got a really good squad. I expect them to be a tough test this weekend,” said Ward. “We know what they are about after our two games this season. We know that we will have to be at our best and leave everything out there.”

Brighton’s last fixture was postponed due to Covid-19 issues and Ward expects to see a much-changed side from the visitors.

She said: “It will be interesting to see because they had seven players isolating last weekend, so it will be interesting to see what they have available to them.”

Blues have had injury problems of their own recently, but Ward revealed that players are gradually coming back alongside new arrivals.

“We’ve got a couple of players back and we will certainly have a squad for Sunday. We have a small squad anyway, so when you lose two or three it becomes quite difficult,” explained Ward. “We’ve got our targets and let’s hope we can get a couple more bodies in.

“We’ve got a few longer-term injuries; players that we thought might have been out for a couple of weeks are looking a bit longer.”

The testing pool is also expected to get bigger, with academy players joining first team squads, to which Ward added: “We all want the league to finish and to be in a position to finish it. The testing pool will gradually get a little bit bigger to allow academy players into the squad. We have had five training with us this week. It allows teams to field 14 in a squad.”

Blues will have Ruesha Littlejohn, who joined from Leicester City, and Emily Murphy, who joined from Chelsea, available to them for Sunday’s fixture.

After a strong first half of the season that saw the side pick up nine points, Ward recognised that there was still plenty of work left to do.

She said to the media: “People think with nine points you are safe. It probably won’t be enough. It will make it interesting because we are all going to have to step it up and make sure we get more points on the board.”