Sunderland Ladies tonight face one of the toughest assignments in women’s football – anywhere.
The Wearsiders take on reigning WSL1 and FA Cup holders Manchester City in the penultimate Spring Series match at Hetton (kick-off 7pm).
City, who recently reached the Champions League semi-finals, bring a side to the Eppleton CW ground which reads like a who’s who in female football.
They are third in a four-way battle for the Spring Series, with Liverpool (14 points) leading Chelsea (13), City (13) and Arsenal (12).
With the final weekend of the season almost upon us, the smart money is on Chelsea, but City arrive this evening still going for it.
And they will probably be even motre motivated opponents given they are smarting from a rare defeat.
City were beaten 1-0 at home by Arsenal at the weekend, sunk by a stunning free-kick from ex-Sunderland midfielder Jordan Nobbs.
The Black Cats, who won 2-1 at Yeovil on Sunday, are well aware of the threat posed by the Sky Blues but view it as a challenge to embrace rather than hide away from it.
Midfielder Lucy Staniforth, whose second-minute goal at Yeovil put Melanie Reay’s team on the way to victory, said: “As a player, you always want to play against the best teams around.
“We will be relishing the challenge of playing Manchester City, especially at our home ground.
“We feel that we can take on anyone at the moment.
“Obviously, it will be a different type of game playing against a team who’ve achieved what they’ve achieved this season.
“It is just something that we are going to have to prepare well for.
“Hopefully we will be able to put in a performance like we did when we played against Arsenal when we drew with them.”
While Sunderland have come unstuck against Liverpool (4-0) and Chelsea (7-0), their defeat to the breathtaking Blues was put into some context when the Londoners then went and scored seven against the league leaders.
The Wearsiders, those two results apart, have enjoyed a fine Spring Series.
They are fifth on eight points with two wins, two draws and two losses.
Sunday’s match with sixth-place Reading will be the key game for the Cats, but Reay will look to tonight to see if Sunderland have learned lessons from the Chelsea mauling.
Despite Sunday’s victory, the head coach could make a couple of changes.
Keeper Anke Preuss is likely to return, having been rested at the weekend to give Hilde Olsen her first game of the year after recovering from a foot injury.
Forward Beverly Leon will be knocking on the door for a start, having come off the bench to score the winner at Yeovil.
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