AN AWAY match with a twist lies in wait for Manchester City as they head to St George’s Park to face Birmingham City on Sunday.
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League match has moved away from Birmingham’s usual home at Solihull Moors with Damson Park “not meeting requirements in the Rules and Regulations of the League” according to the League’s Executive Operations Committee.
So while a trip on the road brings its challenges, lack of knowledge won’t be one of them – with nine City players heading to St George’s Park during the latest England camp.
“They'll be familiar with the surroundings,” Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor joked in his pre-match press conference.
“I think it's an FA decision, they've taken this kind of motion to play the game there, again we'll try and capitalise on any slight thing.
“Hopefully, it provides a good playing surface for both teams, so I can see why the FA have looked at it, especially with the kind of situation we had at Solihull previously.
“For us, a pitch is a pitch, two goals, officials, nothing really changes, I understand about the playing surface which hopefully will help us, especially with our game.
“That's part of it; we still have to turn up and do the business.”
Late changes may derail some teams but Taylor’s side can’t afford to be one of them, needing a win to keep pace with WSL leaders Chelsea.
City have lost just once in the league this term but not even victory in their game in hand would be enough to go top of the table.
“It doesn't change really too much for us,” he said. “We were planning on preparing in the best way we see possible for a two o'clock kick-off so nothing's changed in that respect.
“The hotel will stay the same and instead of going to Solihull on Sunday morning, we'll be diverting to St George's Park.
“We back the FA's decision, it's their decision, and hopefully it provides a good surface for both teams but also really good facilities as well.”
Taylor remains unsure how much of the squad he’ll have to choose from when facing Birmingham, with Keira Walsh picking up a hamstring injury at the Lionesses’ camp.
She’ll be ‘touch and go’ in the eyes of her manager while Sam Mewis missed out on the SheBelieves Cup with the United States due to an ankle problem.
Mewis is due to have some involvement having undergone rehabilitation over the past few weeks while Abby Dahlkemper, Rose Lavelle and Janine Beckie could appear having played in the SheBelieves Cup.
“We want to keep the squad together. They had partial involvement – Abby didn't play in the final game on Wednesday night and Rose played 45 minutes, Janine played 90 minutes for Canada – so we need to see them beforehand,” he continued.
“I'll have a good conversation with them but we want them with us.
“They're a part of the team and you want all the players to be involved, you want them to be there no matter what the capacity is because that's what we're all about.
“And that's why I feel we're in this position we are where we are and where we've done well is because we've really worked hard as a team.”
In what was a busy week for the Mancunians, Karen Bardsley, who has played for the Blues since 2014, departed to join OL Reign in the United States on loan until June.
The City head coach explained that much-needed time on the pitch was the main reason behind the mid-season switch.
“It was something that came to us, was presented to us, and Karen wanted to experience gaining more minutes,” he said. “[It was] similar in some respects to Jill [Scott] with the upcoming Olympics.
“Karen's was slightly more different just with all of her history with missing all of last season and the need for getting back out and playing games.
“We're fully supportive in that move that she's made and it should be a really good experience for her.”