Liverpool FC Women return to Championship action on Sunday as they take on London Bees, looking for a win which would keep their faint hopes of promotion alive.
The Reds are a distant 10 points behind current leaders Leicester in the race to secure the sole automatic promotion spot, and an immediate return to the WSL after relegation last year.
They have a game in hand over Durham who sit second, and two over Sheffield United in third, with Liverpool six points behind the Blades. This makes Sunday’s encounter, and every game until the end of the campaign, a must-win for the Reds.
The two sides last faced off in September on matchday two, with the Reds running out 3-0 winners as Melissa Lawley, Rinsola Babajide and Rachel Furness all got on the scoresheet to secure their first win of the season.
Fast forward to now and things look very different for both teams, not least because they each have a new manager in the dugout. Liverpool have interim boss Amber Whiteley, while Sian Osmond is the woman in charge of the Bees.
The Reds parted company with previous manager Vicky Jepson in mid-January and the search for the perfect candidate to lead Liverpool from next season onwards is still an ongoing process for the board.
Osmond, meanwhile, assumed temporary control at the London club on 14th February and she is gearing up for her second game since taking the reigns at the club she has been with for five years now.
This will be Whitely’s third game in charge since taking over temporarily, and she is still looking for her first win after a damaging 2-1 defeat to Leicester in January and a disappointing 2-2 draw with Charlton last time out derailed Liverpool’s title charge.
They have had almost three weeks to prepare for this game after their last fixture with Coventry City, scheduled to take place on Valentine’s Day, was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
The Bees’ game with Crystal Palace went ahead that Sunday and, despite dominating proceedings early on, Osmond’s team suffered a thrashing. They lost 5-0 against the Eagles to leave them ninth in the table and winless in their last five.Embed from Getty Images
Liverpool no doubt go into the game as favourites, then, and will be keen to exploit the defensive frailties the Bees showed at Hayes Lane. Whether they do it with their remains talismanic forward Rinsola Babajide remains to be seen, as it is not yet known if she will be reintegrated back into the squad.
The 22-year-old missed a number of training sessions after the club turned down her request to leave in the January transfer window and she was subsequently left out of the squad for the game against the Addicks.
It is understood she has since returned to training and it will be interesting to see whether she will slot right back into Whiteley’s starting XI.
Liverpool were buoyed by the recent returns of Jade Bailey and Ashley Hodson from injury with both making the bench against Charlton. Hodson assisted both goals in the draw, after she was summoned from the bench to play in her first game of the year following a hamstring injury sustained in December.
She could feature from the start alongside new signing Ceri Holland, who also came on in that game and marked her debut at a snowy Hayes Lane with a goal.
The Reds will want to avoid a repeat of the Charlton game – they conceded a last minute equaliser to drop two valuable points, despite controlling most of the game against an opponent who sit second from bottom – if they harbour any ambitions of getting their stuttering promotion push back on track.
The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at Prenton Park and is available to watch for free on the club’s YouTube channel.
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