Lauren Smith praises ‘some real standout performances’ ahead of Chelsea visit

Addressing the media on Friday ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Ashton Gate, Bristol City’s Lauren Smith reflected on a midweek Conti Cup clash, Amalie Thestrup’s development and what to expect from a Chelsea side that have struggled for results in recent weeks.

‘[Seeing other players is] something we’ve really enjoyed with the Conti Cup,’ she told reporters. ‘You’ve got to find positives in what that looks like – it was great to see Sille [Struck], our center back that we haven’t really seen featured much. She’s had a couple of little injuries that have kept her out of contention and kept her on the bench but I think she had a game that she grew into which was really nice to see.’

‘In terms of individuals there were some real standout performances. I don’t think as a team I can really celebrate the performance because it wasn’t there, it was too transitional and we didn’t really have much control in the game, but on an individual basis I think there are some positives to take from it.’

But moving onto some scheduling questions, Smith explained that Bristol City have ‘played at Ashton Gate, bar the Leicester game, off the back of Conti Cup midweek games to London. They’ve also been against top teams off the back of a tired leggy road trip, especially when we played Arsenal in the Conti Cup so I think again this week, we’ve got Chelsea at home after a midweek game.’

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‘Everybody has to play in the Cup, I get that and everybody has the same situation. It does have an impact and you just have to find a way to make it less of an impact so that’s what we’ve been trying to input as well so that hopefully this’ll be the strongest physical performance we’re able to put on based on what we’ve learned to date.’

The Chelsea match comes after the Blues suffered an embarrassing defeat to Arsenal and settled for a midweek draw in the Champions League. ‘It is [an exciting prospect] because we’re here in a good-ish place,’ said Smith.

‘We picked up points last week and I guess you could say Chelsea are sandwiched between Champions League games – it’s a lot that they’ve got to think about, and on the back of a loss and a draw! I think we have to have both feet firmly on the ground with this one, it could be a day where they turn it on and that’ll be a difficult day at the office to try and stop all of those different types of attackers they’ve got. Hopefully it’ll roll us into the New Year when we get to host West Ham and some other big games that we’re looking forward to as well.’

‘I don’t want to say [this is the best time to play Chelsea] because of the obvious reasons that they to go and turn it around, and I’m sure Emma [Hayes] is not happy right now with the last two performances and the outcomes of those performances.’

‘You could say it might be an opportunity and I hope it is, but on the backlash of that, they might be coming out to put things right and that’s quite a scary position to be in as well. We have to just focus on our game, whether they turn up firing on all cylinders or not, we have to make sure that our standards stay high and our performances continue to increase.’

Asked whether Chelsea can take confidence from BK Häcken’s draw against Chelsea in midweek, Smith insisted that ‘you have to look at those moments and celebrate. You could look at it from two different outlets – you can go that perhaps Chelsea weren’t on their game last night, that’s option A, or Häcken defended really well and disrupted Chelsea’s flow really well so we’ve gone towards the latter because we know that Chelsea’s quality is there and it’s there every game.’

‘They don’t just lose that overnight, they can pick that back up at any point if we’re not switched on so I think for us it’s looking at Häcken and how well they disrupted the flow, and ensure that when we look at our defensive game, we start to do those things as well.’