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    Chelsea boss Hayes reckons Champions League heat is on Blues ahead of Atletico Madrid game and Lindahl reunion

    EMMA HAYES reckons Chelsea’s rivals in Europe are revelling in the pressure being placed on her team to win the Champions League.
    And the Blues boss hopes to see the competition become as big a draw as the men’s version with its expansion next season. 

    Emma Hayes says Chelsea are looking forward to taking on Atletico MadridCredit: PA:Press Association

    The WSL leaders take on Atletico Madrid – who have won three of their last six games in Spain’s top-flight. 
    It will be the first time the Blues have ever gone up against the LaLiga Women’s team, who sit third in their division.
    They knocked Manchester City out of the competition in the last 16 in the 2019-20 season and the term before. 
    Hayes, 44, said: “Everyone around Europe is loving the kind of pressure being put on Chelsea, the conversation being out around this year, our team and what’s expected of them, while Man City are not being spoken about. 

    “The realities are, the more you ask me the same question, the more I’ll say the same thing. Because it’s just another game. 
    “To approach it any differently is to give it more weight than necessary. 
    “I’ve learnt by years of mistakes that to do it any different means you’re probably thinking about the next game rather than one coming up. 
    “We have to make sure the only thing I’m thinking about is Atletico. I think every game is difficult

    “It’s certainly the tie that we wanted to play, it was the opponent we wanted.

    Chelsea will face an Atletico Madrid side that includes Brazil striker LudmilaCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    “We have full respect for the work they’ve done especially knocking out Man City in the last two years, but we don’t underestimate them. 
    “To be honest with you I’d rather have a real tough test and see where we are at this stage of the season than not, so we’re just really looking forward to it.”
    The clash with Atletico will see Chelsea come up against a familiar face in ex-Blues stopper Hedvig Lindahl. 
    And the former Wolfsburg ace will be aiming to halt her old side’s progress in the competition. 
    The Sweden goalkeeper made 45 Blues appearances between 2015 and 2019 winning a league title and two FA Cups.
    And the former Chelsea star – who Hayes describes as a “legend” – helped the club qualify for the Champions League in 2018. 
    Hayes added: “She came to this football club at the top of her game, and I think transformed our results on the pitch.
    “She will go down as a legend of the football club for the contribution she’s made to the trophies we’ve won. 
    “I never underestimate Hedvig Lindahl. I know her qualities inside and out. But my job is to make sure she’s on the wrong end tomorrow evening.”

    Ex-Blues keeper Hedvig Lindahl is looking forward to playing her old team-matesCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Millie Bright reckons Chelsea are confident of getting a good result against Atletico and her old team-mate Lindahl. 
    And the Blues centre-back, who recovered from an injury that saw her withdraw from England’s international camp, says the champs will be ruthless with their opponents.
    Bright added: “I do feel like we’re ready now. I think we’ve shown that in the league.
    “We’ve shown how ruthless we can be, how strong defensively we can be, but you have to prepare for the game that’s in front of you.
    “We’ve prepared very well for this, as we do for every game, but it’s the one we wanted, so we’re just excited to get out there and get going.”
    Next season’s competition will see the introduction of a 16-team group stage that will replace the current knockout round of 16.

    Millie Bright is confident Chelsea can beat Atletico MadridCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    And the top six-ranked nations in the contest, which include England, now have three qualifying spots from their best leagues rather than two. 
    Hayes added: “I’m happy to think that three teams will qualify from England, I think that will add even more kudos to our league.
    “Women’s football is here to stay and it’s about time we continue to put even more into it on a European level to make it as marketable a product as we do the men’s competition.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Fiorentina ace Tessel Middag says she’ll always have ‘soft spot’ for Man City ahead of Champions League clash

    FIORENTINA’S Tessel Middag admits she’ll always have a soft spot for Manchester City ahead of their Champions League tie on Wednesday.
    Middag, 26, joined City full of optimism in 2016 but her time at the club was cut short due to a ten-month cruciate ligament injury.

    Middag says she still has a soft spot for City ahead of their Champions League tie with Fiorentina tomorrowCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    After a brief stint at West Ham in 2018, she joined Fiorentina in 2020 and has been there since.
    But despite her City career coming to a tragic end, Middag says she still has very “warm feelings” for the club.
    Reflecting on her time at the Academy Stadium, she said on City’s website: “My injury did affect what I could do on the pitch but from a human perspective, I’m happy with the connections I made there.
    “I still have very warm feelings about Manchester as a whole and City as a Club.”

    The Dutch midfielder will get the chance to meet her old City pals for the first time since her move, which she claims she had a ‘feeling’ would happen.
    When she heard the two teams will be facing each other in the Champions League last 16 match up, she said she was really happy.
    Middag continued: “I was really happy! I felt like it was going to happen!
    “I was at my team-mates’ house and the first part of the draw had been made and we were like: ‘Here we go! This is our part!’


    But there’ll be no love lost when she faces her old sideCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    “The first team that came out was ‘Manchester City’ and we knew there was a good chance because of the groups, I thought: ‘Surely, it must be Fiorentina!’ and there it was! I was very happy.
    “Especially given the situation with COVID-19, you are not able to travel as much so I’m happy that by drawing City, I can return to the city where I enjoyed living for two years.
    “Although I will not be able to explore, it will be good to go back.”
    Middag added that she messaged City stars Steph Houghton and Karen Bardsley after the draw, but old friendships will be put aside once the game begins.
    City will be hoping to ruin her return to the City by knocking Fiorentina out of the Champions League.
    The Blues have been on fire recently, hammering Birmingham 4-0 in the WSL yesterday and they will aim to give the Italians similar treatment tomorrow.

    City will be hoping to ruin Middag’s return with a victory over the Italian outfitCredit: Getty Images – Getty

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    Everton boss Willie Kirk praises Jill Scott’s positive ‘impact’ ahead of Man City clash

    WILLIE KIRK praised Jill Scott for having a positive influence on Everton since sealing a January loan move to the club.
    Scott, 36, has been in scintillating form for the Toffees as they battle Arsenal for fourth place in the top-flight.

    Jill Scott’s Everton team-mates are set to play her parent club Man City nextCredit: Rex Features

    The England midfielder, 34, scored Everton’s winning goal in their defeat of Tottenham in a 3-2 thriller.
    But the veteran Lioness will be unavailable for selection for the team’s next WSL encounter with the Toffees due to play her parent club Manchester City.
    Kirk, 42, said: “Jill’s made a huge difference since she’s come in.
    “She’s fantastic to have as part of the group and she’s so infectious with her enthusiasm and energy.

    “The standard of her training and performances in terms of ball retention and game management will mean she will have a long-term impact on this club.”
    Scott, who played for Everton from 2006 to 2013, opted to rejoin the Toffees in search of more game time ahead of the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
    The England star, who has played 104 times for Man City, featured in just seven WSL games for the club this term, including five appearances as a substitute.
    Scott, who received her 150th England cap, helped the Lionesses to claim their first international win in almost a year with their 6-0 defeat of Northern Ireland at St George’s Park.

    And the Sunderland-born player has been celebrated for becoming the second most-capped England Women’s player after Fara Williams.

    Willie Kirk reckons Scott’s game management experience will benefit EvertonCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Although Scott has no plans to retire any-time soon, the WSL star harbours ambitions to become a coach in future.
    Scott added: “Just before I left City over Christmas we had a few Covid issues which opened up an opportunity to do a bit more coaching with the girls and I loved it.
    “They said they did too and I don’t know if they were just trying to be nice to me, but those two weeks before I went to Everton really made me realise that this is what I want to do.”

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    Durham ace Sarah Robson pleased with Northern Ireland’s Euros prep work as Wildcats keep pace with Leicester

    SARAH ROBSON reckons Northern Ireland’s clash with England was the perfect preparation for their quest to qualify for the 2021 Euros. 
    And the Durham’s ace’s unbeaten Championship side notched up their tenth win this term to keep up pressure on promotion rivals Leicester City.

    Sarah Robson reckons Northern Ireland’s game against England was useful practice for their Euros play-offsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Robson’s club side Durham are battling with Leicester for promotion to the Women’s Super LeagueCredit: Represented by ZUMA Press, Inc.

    Robson, 33, was speaking days after Kenny Shiels’ players took on the Lionesses ahead of their bid to become the first Northern Ireland women’s side to reach a major football tournament. 
    And while the visitors suffered a heavy 6-0 loss the former Sunderland ace believes the match gave her team food for thought ahead of their Euros play-off in April. 
    Robson told Durham’s website: “The England game was all about seeing where we’re at. 
    “We’re still trying to work on our philosophy and trying to do the right things, even against the best in the world.

     “It’s all a little pre-season building up to our qualifier in a couple of weeks’ time. 
    “I think everyone is in a better place now knowing what we need to do when we get to the play-offs”. 
    Robson, who is a Northern Ireland veteran, has been capped 60 times since her international debut in 2005.
    And the midfielder, whose club are second in the Women’s Championship and play Blackburn next, is seen as a mentor to her national team’s youth prospects. 

    Shiels told SunSport: “I don’t normally single out any players but Sarah is one who is exceptional in her attitude. 
    “We have got four or five in their thirties who are like coaches playing alongside young players.
    “Sarah is one of those and is a great role model for the younger ones.
    “She gives everything to her sport, she has got a ‘never say die’ attitude and she takes discipline and criticism and just gets on with the job.”

    Durham are unbeaten in the Women’s Championship after 15 games and play Blackburn nextCredit: Represented by ZUMA Press, Inc.

    Robson and her Durham team-mates are currently level on points with Leicester after beating London City Lionesses 1-0.
    The team are due to go head-to-head with the Championship leaders, who defeated Crystal Palace, after a trip to Blackburn. 
    And with both teams opening up a seven-point gap on third-placed Sheffield United, the clash between the rivals could be a pivotal one in the battle for a WSL spot.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Birmingham 0 Man City 4: Mewis marks return from injury with stylish brace as City turn up heat on Chelsea

    SAM MEWIS helped Manchester City pile pressure on champions Chelsea with a lethal display on her return from an ankle injury. 
    The midfield maestro’s clinical brace was among the goals that saw the points gap to the league leaders cut to just two after City’s 4-0 win against Birmingham. 

    Sam Mewis and Man City will take on Everton next in the WSLCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Mewis was on target twice for Man City in their 4-0 win against BirminghamCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    The result saw Gareth Taylor’s side pick up their eighth straight win ahead of their Champions League clash with Fiorentina.
    And the City boss was full of praise for Mewis who was playing for the first time since City’s win in Europe against Goteborg in December. 
    Taylor said: “Sam has been out for quite a long period and not played for us for a while. 
    “Fortunately with her not going away to the SheBelieves Cup we were able to get her ready, and I thought her performance today was really good. 

    “In the first-half, we were probably a little bit impatient with our play and a little bit wasteful. 
    “I think with Birmingham slowing the game down quite a bit we struggled to try and get our flow and rhythm. Sam’s goal a little before half-time helped us. 
    “The girls were able to relax and we were able to play a half-pitch practice in the second-half which is what we wanted.
    “It’s important to keep winning. We know where we are at as a team and how well we are progressing and the things we need to improve on. 

    Despite the hefty scoreline Taylor’s did not have things entirely their own way in the game’s early stages

    Gareth Taylor’s team have not dropped points in the league since a 2-2 draw with Man United in NovemberCredit: Reuters

    The low block of Carla Ward’s aces and a few impressive stops from Hannah Hampton managed to keep City at bay for the first 40 minutes.
    Taylor’s players threatened early in the exchange – moved from Birmingham’s home turf to St George’s Park – forcing a superb save from Hampton in the 14th minute. 
    The Lionesses starlet showed why she is seen as a contender for England’s No1 shirt saving Ellen White’s header and denying a  downward-headed effort from Steph Houghton. 

    We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. This result won’t define us
    Carla Ward

    Moments later Blues had a decent looking free-kick themselves with Ellen White heading Sarah Mayling’s floated effort out of City’s penalty area.
    And it was White’s team who would eventually get the breakthrough with Sam Mewis heading in her fifth goal of the season close to half-time.
    In the second-half City doubled their lead with Mewis latching onto a ball volleyed off the line to snatch her second in the 53rd minute. 
    Taylor’s players increased their tally moments later. 
    This time with Mewis turning provider for Lauren Hemp with her floated effort reaching the back of the net.
    And the England starlet required treatment for a few minutes after appearing to hurt herself in the process of scoring.
    Playmaker Caroline Weir wrapped up the victory netting City’s final goal of the match in the 67th minute. 
    The result leaves Birmingham winless in five games and five points ahead of bottom-placed Bristol before a tricky match against Arsenal.

    Carla Ward said she was “disappointed but not disheartened” by Birmingham’s loss to Manchester CityCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    Ward: “We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. This result won’t define us. 
    “This will make us stronger and we have got to kick on.
    “This is a group who have been written off all season but we will take each game as it comes.”

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    Ex-England ace Alex Scott sports a new look wearing a red puffer jacket teamed with funky jogging pants

    FOOTIE pundit Alex Scott scores highly for wackiness in this top-of-the-inflatable outfit clash.
    The eclectic combo combines a red puffer jacket teamed with funky jogging pants and yellow aviator sunglasses.

    Alex Scott teams a red puffer jacket with funky jogging pants and yellow aviator sunglasses

    Alex is usually more conservative with her outfits when she appears on TV as a punditCredit: Reuters

    Her hip outfit choice, was a far cry from the smart get-up the former football ace, 36, usually wears for her telly appearances.
    The ex-England ace may no longer play . . . but she’s still striking.
    The TV presenter penned a comment piece for The Sun this week about her struggles with depression, telling fans “I’m a tough cookie”.
    She wrote: “Most Brits are determined to put on a brave face and tell everyone they are ok even when it’s clear we’re not.

    Alex in her playing days for ArsenalCredit: The FA – Getty Images

    The former player is now a presenter on Sky SportsCredit: PA:Press Association

    “And I’m exactly the same.
    “There’s so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about mental health.”
    The star recently fronted BBC documentary, The Truth About Improving Your Mental Health.

    The ex-England ace, 36, may no longer play . . . but she’s still strikingCredit: PA:Press Association

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    Leicester boss Morgan ‘disappointed’ by Covid rule-breaking and says there is no room for error in promotion race

    JONATHAN MORGAN warned his Leicester aces against breaking Covid-19 protocols in future after revealing his disappointment in players partying during lockdown. 
    And the Foxes boss reckons his team cannot afford to make any mistakes in their bid to win a Women’s Super League spot next term.  

    Jonathan Morgan says Leicester City were left “disappointed” by party involving the club’s players

    Morgan, whose team play Crystal Palace on Sunday, was speaking for the first time since it was reported that 10 of his aces attended an illegal house party.
    Three members of Leicester City men’s under-23’s squad and two players from Birmingham City Women are also thought to have been at the gathering. 
    The incident which occurred on February 13 – the day of Foxes’ postponed game against Durham – led to the Leicester players involved being fined. 
    Morgan told BBC Radio Leicester: “We were naturally disappointed and upset with what happened. 

    “We dealt quite swiftly internally to make sure we held the parties involved accountable. 
    “We have to educate them on the severity of the situation. It’s a very isolated incident. It’s not what we’re known for. 
    “They know how many people they’ve let down, and the people of Leicester.
    “We made it very clear to them. We then gave them a period of reflection, and people’s views were made heard to them. 

    Leicester will be looking to pick up their ninth win on the bounce when they play Crystal PalaceCredit: PA
    “They needed to understand that this isn’t a mistake they can make again.
    “From our view now, we want to focus on the next league game. But, the girls involved are disappointed in themselves. 
    “It was a gross misjudgement. We want to draw a line underneath it now.”
    Leicester, who are pushing to reach the top-flight for the first time in their 17-year history, are in a tight promotion battle with unbeaten Durham. 
    The Women’s Championship leaders are currently level on points with their rivals who face a tricky clash against in-form London City Lionesses.
    The Foxes have won eight games on the bounce since their 4-0 defeat away to London City in November. 

    Durham have played 23 matches and are yet to lose a game in the Women’s ChampionshipCredit: Represented by ZUMA Press, Inc.

    Morgan added:  “There’s no real room for error anymore.
    “It’s between us and Durham and we want to go and win promotion.
    “We hope our in-possession game will be the difference this weekend.”
    The FA says the postponed clash between Durham and Leicester has been rescheduled for Sunday 14 March. 
    The match is set to take place at Maiden Castle.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Man Utd suffer injury setback with star Leah Galton out for the next few months

    MANCHESTER UNITED have suffered a fresh injury blow with Leah Galton side-lined for the next few months.
    The club confirmed in a statement that the winger damaged her ankle ligaments during their 3-0 derby defeat to rivals Manchester City.

    Galton will be out for the next few months United sayCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    United said that they will be working with the 26-year-old over the next few months to aid her recovery.
    The statement read: “The club can confirm that Leah Galton has suffered ankle ligament damage and will spend the next couple of months working closely with the medical team on her rehabilitation.
    “Everyone at the club wishes Leah a speedy recovery.”
    Despite the setback, Galton appeared in a buoyant mood on social media and said she’ll be back soon.

    In response to a get well soon post from the club, Galton responded: “I’ll be back.”
    The injury will be a huge blow to the Red Devils in their pursuit of a top-two WSL finish.
    She’s been an instrumental figure in United’s title push and is their joint-top scorer.
    Prior to her injury, Galton featured in all the club’s WSL games so far and scooped the WSL Player of the Month for December 2020.

    Earlier this month Galton had signed a contract extension with the club until 2024.

    She was injured during United’s loss to Man CityCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Galton has been a revelation at the club this season and featured in every WSL game prior to her injuryCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Upon penning the new deal she said: “It’s a massive honour for me to sign a new long-term deal with the club.”
    But Galton isn’t boss Casey Stoney’s only injury headache as other hit-woman Tobin Heath is also on the crocked list.
    Heath, 32, was unplayable before her injury, scoring four goals in just eight games.

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