Roker Report: Thanks for speaking to us! Manchester City Women currently find themselves fourth in the Women’s Super League. How would you rate City’s performance so far in the league?
Dave: Most fans went into this season thinking it could be one of transition.
There were a lot of comings and goings last summer and we thought that a number of new players may need time to gel together.
However, after an initial defeat at Aston Villa where we looked a bit sluggish, we’ve performed excellently and to be honest, we’re ahead of the curve of where I thought we’d be at this stage of the season.
RR: There were many incomings and outgoings at City during the summer. What are your thoughts on the players who left and those you have brought in?
Dave: Georgia Stanway, Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh and Caroline Weir had all been fantastic at City, and when club legends Ellen White and Jill Scott both retired, of course that caused concern.
Gareth Taylor and his staff have recruited very well, however.
They did not look to replace on a like-for-like basis, but players such as Laia Aleixandri, Deyna Castellanos, Leila Ouahabi, and Yui Hasegawa have come in and hit the ground running.
I believe that we’ve recruited players to fit the style we want to play, and it’s worked very well over the early part of the season.
There’s a mixture of potential and experience, and on the whole, they’ve performed fantastically.
RR: City are currently unbeaten in six matches across all competitions, with their most recent loss coming against Chelsea. What’s changed since then, and what has led to this resurgence?
Dave: City have built up some momentum since losing the first two games of the WSL season, which came on the back of an early Champions League exit to Real Madrid.
The start of the season came after a successful summer with the Euros, and I honestly believe the lack of a pre-season was a factor.
We weren’t at our best on the opening day, but the next game away to Chelsea was an excellent performance and if we’re honest, a 0-2 defeat was extremely harsh.
Since then, the momentum and confidence has seemingly grown as our ‘new’ team has turned in excellent performances week in and week out.
RR: Given that this is a cup match, do you expect Gareth Taylor to rotate the side or to pick a strong team in order to keep up with Liverpool in Group B?
Dave: I think City will field a mixture of players who need vital minutes, along with some of our promising younger players.
Experienced players such as Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes and Filippa Angeldahl are all short of match time, along with Ruby Mace who is on the verge of returning from injury, and I expect all of them to start, fitness permitting.
Alanna Kennedy has also yet to feature due to injury and her international teammate Hayley Raso was also absent last week at Everton. If fit, they may well feature.
Against Blackburn, we put a number of academy prospects on the bench, so this may well be the way we play on Sunday, as Gareth Taylor rotates his squad to keep everyone fresh and match fit ahead of a busy run of games leading into the Christmas period.
RR: City currently find themselves six points behind Chelsea in the league. Would you rather the focus was on the league, the cup or to be competitive in both?
Dave: City are equally focused on every game, regardless of the competition.
We’re the proud holders of the Conti Cup and have won the trophy four times since we turned professional in 2014, including an amazing triumph in our debut season.
This trophy has a very special place in the hearts of the club and the supporters.
We finished third in the league last season, as well as winning the Conti Cup and finishing as runners-up to Chelsea in an amazing FA Cup final, so we do approach every single challenge with an equal will to win.
RR: Is anyone currently having a breakout season, or will you likely be relying on key players?
Dave: To be honest, most of the new players I’ve already mentioned could be considered as having a ‘breakout season’.
Rather than repeat that, I’ll mention a player who was already at the club and who’s almost become the first name on the team sheet for league games.
Esme Morgan has been at City since she was young. She worked her way up through the academy and after a year on loan at Everton, and then a horrific injury which kept her out for a year, she’s been fantastic at the heart of our defence this season.
Her outstanding performances have not gone unnoticed, as she’s made her debut for the Lionesses at senior level and has captained the side during our last two games versus Everton and Reading.
She deserves all the plaudits that she’s getting.
RR: Who would you say could be a thorn in the side of Sunderland, and who do we need to look out for?
Dave: If fit, I’d expect the likes of Filippa Angeldahl, Julie Blakstad and Hayley Raso to cause you problems on Sunday.
The pace and directness of our wide players is always first class and even if Bunny Shaw doesn't start up top, they’ll create chances for whoever does, as well as themselves.
Deyna Castellanos has also looked good, and if she plays, she’s bound to bring an attacking threat.
In all honesty, it’s difficult to know for sure which team will line up on Sunday, but it’s a game we need to win, as our next two group games see us away from home, at Liverpool and Leicester.
RR: It’s always tough to give score predictions, but how do you see this game panning out?
Dave: I’m traditionally awful at predictions, but as you’ve asked me for one, I’ll go for 3-1 to City.
As a general rule, we’re very good at home, and I hope to see us continue our recent good form.
RR: For any Sunderland fans looking to make the trip, what is the matchday experience like? How is it in terms of location, parking, amenities and atmosphere?
Dave: Any fans making the journey on Sunday will be most welcome.
We play our home games at The Academy Stadium, which is just a footbridge crossing over the road from the Etihad Stadium.
There’s free parking at the Etihad’s blue car park on matchdays, which is located at the back of the stadium off Alan Turing Way. From there, you can head over the Nexen Tyre bridge to our stadium, which is a five to ten-minute walk.
If supporters need tickets, there’s a ticket booth at the academy end of the bridge and they’ll happily sort tickets out for you.
Our stadium is cash-free inside. Programmes and food are available but must be paid for via card. However, hot and cold drinks are free on all matchdays this season.
Our MCWFC OSC table is just inside the north east entrance, in case any visiting fans want to come in and say hello. We also sell an OSC matchday badge for every game, so they may want to pick one up.
The atmosphere is generally generated in the middle of the main stand, where we as a group have our season tickets, but it spreads out around all areas and is good-natured, with all visiting supporters seemingly enjoying their visits to our ground.
If any fans need more information, please contact us on Twitter @mcwfc_osc and we will endeavour to answer any questions you might have.