There are ‘a lot of emotions that we’ve got to manage,’ says Carla Ward after international break

Tasked with readying her team to face a buoyant Manchester City side with just a few days of preparation after the international break, Aston Villa’s Carla Ward addressed the media on Friday morning to offer updates on team news and a look ahead to Saturday’s match.

Despite a shaky start to the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign, four wins on the bounce across all competitions looked set to turn Ward’s fortunes around after her job was called into question by critics, but defeat to Everton last time out could threaten to spoil their season once more – especially if it is followed by a comprehensive thrashing this weekend.

Gareth Taylor’s Manchester Cityby contrast, have been in the form of their lives. They recovered well from a narrow defeat to Brighton, going on to thrash Robert Vilhamn’s Tottenham by a whopping seven uncontested goals before going on to upset Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Speaking in her pre-match press conference on Thursday, Ward offered her thoughts on Manchester City’s title hopes and gave a brief update on injuries within the Aston Villa camp.

Gareth Taylor has ‘done an unbelievable job’

Carla Ward took the opportunity to praise Gareth Taylor, who she believes ‘deserves an awful lot of credit’ for his side’s performances this term.

‘Look, I think Man City and Gareth Taylor in particular don’t get enough credit. He’s done an unbelievable job – they had a big turnover of players last summer and I think what he’s done has been brilliant,’ she told journalists on Friday.

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Like I said, he deserves an awful lot of credit for an unbelievable team and I think they play with a lot of freedom, they play with a lot of quality. Listen, it’s going to be a tough game – they’re a side you don’t want to face on the back of their last two fixtures, let’s put it that way.’

‘I think they’ll be well in [the title race], I really do. I think they’ll be title contenders, the way they brushed Tottenham aside and Manchester United at Old Trafford – you don’t do that lightly unless you’ve got all the qualities to compete at the top end and I think at the end of the season they’ll be up there.’

There are ‘a lot of emotions’ within camp

Asked about how her players have responded to the latest international break that saw Team GB’s hopes of Olympic qualification shattered despite England recording two impressive victories, Ward insisted that ​​​​​​​’there’s different scenarios and a lot of emotions’.

‘Naturally, I’ve picked up with Rach [Daly] this morning and she’s gutted. She’s a passionate person that takes a lot of pride in playing for her country and of course it’s going to hurt.’

‘But it’s not just Rach, I think if you forget the Olympics, we’ve had an awful lot of players away with their countries. You always have to manage when you come back in different emotions. This is probably the biggest one because some people have obviously come out of their Nations [League] group, some are on the back of Olympic qualification, so there’s different scenarios and a lot of emotions that we’ve got to manage today for sure.’

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The Villa boss was unable to issue an update on injuries reporters on injuries, given the tight turnaround between players returning from international duty and the upcoming match.

‘The honest answer is I don’t know yet. They arrived back this morning, obviously got a couple coming from the other side of the world that won’t arrive back until later this evening. It really, really will depend on how people have come back. As you saw, a couple of people went off for their countries so we’ll assess that today.’

But Ward insisted that she has been afforded enough time to prepare adequately for the Manchester City clash, explaining that ‘I think you have to plan effectively before they get back in, so it’s as clear and clean as possible this morning and tomorrow – but every single manager is in the same boat, well at least those that are playing on Saturday.’

‘Obviously myself and Gareth will be in the same boat. You can’t make excuses, it’s as simple as you have to prepare the players and we’re used to it in the women’s game.’