23 March 2021

Bronze is back but Houghton still out as Man City face Barcelona in Champions League

23 March 2021

Manchester City have Lucy Bronze available but will again be without Steph Houghton when they take on Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg in Monza.

The England pair have not been involved in City’s last two matches.

While Bronze is set to return to action after her lay-off, skipper and fellow defender Houghton remains sidelined by a problem “in the Achilles area” sustained in the first leg of the last-16 tie against Fiorentina, City boss Gareth Taylor has said.

Lucy Bronze (pictured) and Houghton have not been involved in City's last two matches (Nick Potts/PA). (PA Wire)

Regarding Houghton, Taylor told a press conference on Tuesday: “It’s one we anticipated would have settled down by now.

“It’s in the Achilles area, and it was in the first game against Fiorentina. I think it’s probably not settled down as quickly as we’d like, or certainly as Steph would like – she’s obviously really disappointed not to be here with the team.

“It’s really difficult to answer in terms of when she’ll be back. We’re hoping it’s not too far away, but we’ll always look at what’s the right thing for the player.

“We had this before, earlier in the season with many of our players, that we’re trying to see the bigger picture. As much as these games are big, we’re trying to see the bigger picture and make sure they’re back for us for the remaining run-in.”

Gareth Taylor saw his City side beat Fiorentina 8-0 on aggregate in the last 16 (Martin Rickett/PA). (PA Wire)

Taylor said City have “good cover” and “big personalities in the team, different types of leaders”.

They take on a Barcelona outfit who have won all 20 of their Spanish top-flight games so far this season, scoring 99 goals and conceding only three, and advanced into the last eight via a 9-0 aggregate victory against Fortuna Hjorring.

City, who beat Fiorentina 8-0 on aggregate, have won each of their last 10 Women’s Super League matches, scoring 36 times and conceding three goals.

“It’s got all the ingredients of being a really fascinating game,” Taylor said.

“They’re in good form, really strong in their league, scoring a lot of goals, and you could say the same about us. This is what we are here for, to really challenge ourselves and come up against really good teams.”

The second leg will take place at City’s Academy Stadium and, when asked if he felt that gave his side an advantage in the tie, Taylor said: “Potentially. I think it’s nice to have our fixture at home and we’re grateful for that.

“But I’ve always said, the pitch dimensions change slightly, but there’s two goals, officials, nothing really changes from that aspect.”

If City get past 2019 runners-up Barcelona, they will face either Lyon – Champions League winners for the last five seasons – or Paris St Germain in the semi-finals.

Taylor also gave his reaction to the new WSL broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC announced by the Football Association on Monday.

“I think it’s amazing news, I think it really kind of starts to put the women’s game on the map even more than what we previously had,” Taylor said.

“I think its great for everyone involved, and I think it’s just the start.”

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