Match preview: Liverpool Ladies look to top Conti Cup group
Both sides are through but either could hit the summit of Group One North in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup
Both Sunderland and Liverpool might be already through to the quarter-finals of the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup, but Tuesday’s re-arranged Mariners Park clash is no dead rubber.
The Reds inflicted a heavy defeat on this weekend’s hosts in the league just over a month ago, so not only will Sunderland be looking to top Group One North, but they will also have revenge on their minds.
The Black Cats trail Liverpool by a point after three matches in this year’s competition, meaning whoever triumphs on Saturday will head into the next round as pool winners.
Sunderland have won three from three in the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup so far this season, but have had to rely on heroics from goalkeeper Rachael Laws to see off lower-league Durham and Sheffield on penalties.
But after heavy defeats by Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal so far in their league campaign, they will be looking to prove they are capable of mixing it with the big guns.
Liverpool meanwhile have won five games on the spin heading into Saturday’s skirmish – scoring 16 goals and conceding just two – and so are one of the form sides in the whole of the FA Women’s Super League.
Liverpool will perhaps have the psychological edge heading into Saturday’s clash having dished out a 4-1 humbling to Sunderland back in October.
Lucy Staniforth netted a stunning goal in off the bar to put the Black Cats ahead in the first half, but Natasha Harding rounded keeper Rachael Laws to equalise a minute later.
And from there on it was all Liverpool as Sunderland toiled in the windy conditions – with Harding rounding off a fine hattrick after Alex Greenwood had put the Reds ahead direct from a corner.
In fact, Sunderland’s recent record against their Merseyside opponents does not make for good reading; they were beaten 4-0 in the Spring Series, and you have to go all the way back to March 2015 for the last time they beat Liverpool.
ONE TO WATCH – Lucy Staniforth (Sunderland)
Lucy Staniforth has been in superb form in recent weeks for the Black Cats, netting four goals in all – with three of those coming in as many FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup games.
Liverpool will know all about her after her top-drawer strike in their league clash, and Sunderland teammate Rachael Laws believes she is relishing wearing the armband for her club side.
She said: “Lucy’s had a bad few years with injuries but it’s been great to have her back playing for her hometown club.
“And she leads by example in training, in games or off the pitch. The goals she scores as well – it was an absolute worldie last time we played Liverpool – so the hard work she is putting in is really paying off."
WHAT THEY SAID:
Sunderland goalkeeper Rachael Laws said:
“It’s not always ideal having a couple of weeks off as you like to pick up the momentum, but we’ve been training really hard with good intensity.
“We’ve had our full squad together where some other teams have internationals missing, and the girls have stuck together really well.
“We’re looking forward to playing 90 minutes again. Both sides are through, but we’re going into the game like any other and have prepared in the same way.
“Hopefully we can play well, win the game and top the group. Our main aim was to get through to the quarter-finals, which we have done, but when we look back at that league game we don’t think the 4-1 result reflected the game.
“We needed to take our chances; we went in at 1-1 but could have been a couple of goals up and then it would have been a different game.
“The tactics will be very similar. Natasha Harding obviously scored three but it’s not just her, they’ve got a great forward line that’s quick and scores goals – it’s what you need in the Super League.
Ashley Hodson, Liverpool striker, added:
“We’re just going to keep pushing forward as we’ve scored quite a few goals over the last couple of games.
“We want to continue off the back of our last performance because we obviously want to top the table for when we’re going into the next round.
“We’ll treat it like we treat it every other game. We will prepare the right way and hopefully we will come out on top.
“We’ve already played them once this season. They probably know a bit about us, we know a bit about them.
“We’ll obviously try to aim at each other’s weaknesses but I’m confident in this group of players and so is everybody here. We know that we’ve got the ability to go and win that game and top the table.”
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