24 September 2022

The pressure is on, says Matt Beard as WSL’s Merseyside derby heads to Anfield

24 September 2022

Liverpool boss Matt Beard admits a packed Anfield could stir up nerves but insists his side are more than prepared for Sunday’s stand-out showdown with Everton.

The Women’s Super League contest will mark the first time the newly-promoted Reds have played a Merseyside derby at the Premier League ground since 2019.

But Beard believes any impact the big stage might have will affect both sides equally.

“It’s a different occasion playing at Anfield, that’s going to put added pressure on to us a little bit, but then also Everton because they’re coming to one of the most iconic stadiums in football,” he said.

“The Merseyside derby, there’s pressure on both teams, it’s live on TV, and there’s an anticipated big crowd there, so it’s special for both teams. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.

“I think once the whistle goes and they cross that white line, I’ve got every faith and confidence in the group that we can put in a good performance and work like we did the other day.”

Liverpool opened their season with a 2-1 upset of defending champions Chelsea, who are going for a fourth straight title this campaign.

The last Merseyside derby was won 1-0 by Everton thanks to a long-range effort from Lucy Graham, who will captain her side on Sunday in front of a sold-out Anfield away end.

“All the players, all the staff, know how much it means to win a derby in this city,” she said on Instagram live.

“I think the players who have been brought in now know that this game is a huge game and it’s one on the calendar that’s come quick in our season.

“We’re quite thankful for that because it will really give us a taste for that fight, where you have to find it in yourself to really roll your sleeves up and battle. It should be a real springboard for us to reach those heights further on in the season as well.”

Manchester City will travel to a sold-out Kingsmeadow to face defending champions Chelsea on Sunday, with both sides looking to pick up their first points of the season.

Conti Cup holders City experienced a huge turnover of players during the summer and their 4-3 loss to Villa to open the season suggested the new recruits need more time to gel.

Boss Gareth Taylor, however, did not see either City’s or Chelsea’s opening day results as upsets.

“The game is never played on paper,” he said. “People assume beforehand that the game’s done and dusted, but we’ve seen the levels really rise in the WSL. Everyone is improving.

“We are a new group of players that are adapting to each other and there has been quite an element of change, but we’re comfortable with that and we know that eventually we’ll come out the other side and be in a really good place.”

Blues boss Emma Hayes could be without midfielder Pernille Harder due to a hamstring issue.

Chelsea enjoyed a number of sold-out matches last season and Hayes is delighted to see other teams starting to see their own boosts at the box office.

“I’m just so happy to hear about the increases in attendances across the board, because the league has to be strong for everyone,” she said.

“I think we just need to keep thinking about the support we give every club to make sure they can keep fulfilling their own objectives and we can grow to the next space in the game.”

Brighton and Reading will both hope to pick up their first points of the season when they meet.

Manchester United, who beat the Royals 4-0 last weekend, travel to West Ham, while Leicester host Aston Villa.

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