WSL weekend preview: Lucy Bronze's return a 'great boost' for City

Lucy Bronze
Bronze is the reigning Fifa Best Women's Player and made 28 appearances for City last season

England defender Lucy Bronze is set to make her first appearance for Manchester City this season when they face Birmingham City on Sunday.

The 29-year-old returns after recovering from knee surgery she had following Team GB's Olympic campaign.

City have been blighted with injuries and Chloe Kelly and captain Steph Houghton remain unavailable.

"It's a great boost having Lucy available for the weekend," said City boss Gareth Taylor.

He added: "I don't think any of us anticipated how bad the injury crisis was and we were the ones living it. It was tough."

But Taylor's focus is now about going into the Christmas break on a high with two WSL fixtures and a League Cup match to come before then, starting with Birmingham.

"We prepare for everything, but it's difficult to know what team they'll set up on the day. It's making sure we're focused on the what ifs and making sure we're ready for every eventuality."

Their opponents will be seeking a much-needed first win of the season under new interim boss Darren Carter.

"It's a daunting one playing Manchester City," joked Carter. "No, I'm thoroughly looking forward to it. It's been a great few weeks and we're ready to go."

It will also be a memorable return for Carter to St Andrews, a ground he's familiar with having grown up as a Blues supporter before graduating through the academy to the first team as a player for the men's team.

"It's going to be special," he added.

"Representing the football club has always been special to me. The last time I walked out at St Andrews I was a player, so it's a bit surreal now to be a head coach."

'We will keep fighting'

Hope Powell
Hope Powell's side have won three of their last four league games

Hope Powell's Brighton return to WSL action after the international break against Manchester United - and hoping to capitalise on an inconsistent visiting side who have conceded multiple late goals this term.

However, Powell said Brighton would "have to be at our best" to get something out of the match - and is not taking her side's third-placed position for granted.

"We're under no illusion that things can very, very quickly change," she added ahead of the match, which is live on BBC Two on Sunday (12.30 GMT).

And United manager Marc Skinner - whose sixth-placed side have gone four league games without a win - wants more from his squad.

"I'm asking more of certain players to come and step up. We want players to dig in and show who they are," he said.

"We will keep fighting. We will get to a point where we will look back on this as the biggest learning phase.

"Sometimes you have to win ugly."

'It's all fun and games!'

Rachel Rowe of Reading and Alessia Russo of Manchester United
Kelly Chambers' Reading have won three, drawn one and lost four games so far this season

Reading host newly-crowned FA Cup winners Chelsea, who are unbeaten in seven games, in Saturday's early kick-off (11:30 GMT).

The Blues completed their first domestic Treble last weekend, winning the delayed final against Arsenal 3-0, before drawing against Juventus in their midweek Champions League qualifier.

But for Kelly Chambers' Reading, the games haven't been coming thick and fast at all.

"That's the difficulty with this league and, with the international breaks coming so regularly, it's really hard to build any kind of momentum," said Chambers.

"We had a really, really good November, then we had three weeks without a game before going straight into Chelsea. It's all fun and games."

The Royals currently sit eighth in the WSL, level on points with Manchester City, after three wins and a draw.

"We wanted to be beating the teams around us and that was one thing going into this season that we felt was crucial to us," added Chambers.

"November was a period where we saw those teams and we worked hard to make sure there was no stone unturned.

"We have to take confidence from the last month."

Meanwhile, it's a tough debut match for new Leicester City manager Lydia Bedford as the bottom-of-the-table Foxes travel to leaders Arsenal, while Everton host top-four challengers West Ham and Aston Villa are home to fourth-placed Tottenham in Sunday's other fixture.

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