PREVIEW LIVERPOOL V BLUES LADIES
Blues Ladies return to league action this Saturday when they travel to Liverpool Ladies, kick-off 5.30pm.
Blues Ladies may have to again rely on teen spirit at Liverpool Ladies for the WSL match.
And as far as the playing surface at Liverpool’s home ground of Widnes is concerned, Blues will be all the more wiser.
Ann-Katrin Berger may not make the encounter at the Select Security Stadium. Hannah Hampton deputised for her at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, when Blues beat Doncaster Rovers Belles in the Continental Cup.
And she may get the nod again, over fellow 16-year-old Fran Stenson, who made her WSL debut against Everton Ladies in the second match of the campaign.
Manager Marc Skinner explained: “It’s looking like Ann won’t make it, so it will be Hannah or Fran to start.
“There has to be trust there. Young players are going to make mistakes and hopefully the people who watch games understand that.
“We are a Club that gives young players opportunities, we’re not scared to do that.
“One of Hannah’s strong points is her distribution, she helps us play out from the back.
“If Fran is chosen, then there’s no qualms there either. She was excellent on her debut against Everton.
“They are both very talented goalkeepers who are able to cope.”
“Ann has had a problem with her rib area,” Skinner revealed. “It’s ongoing.
“She’s a tough old cookie but she seems to have taken a few hits recently. She had a heavy fall and whack at Everton, and at Manchester City she had a heavy fall on her neck.
“We have a two-week break coming up and after that I’m sure she will be fine. It’s just taking the medical advice that’s best to help her health and well-being.”
The artificial pitch at Widnes is like no other: the bounce of the ball is difficult to gauge on such a hard, compact surface.
Blues experienced it only a week last Thursday, when Everton defeated them 1-0 in the Continental Cup there.
“We have got a couple of selection quandaries in regards the way we want to play,” said Skinner.
“Liverpool are quite a counter-attacking team, they like to hit you quite fast.
“So we want to destroy their counter-attacking but also get at their backline.
“It’s about picking a team with this in mind, one that can do this the best against Liverpool. We are looking for three points, that’s the aim.”
“It wasn’t, I think, a ‘Birmingham performance’ on that pitch (against Everton),” Skinner continued.
“We have got to be more solid as we were then, almost a two unit approach: an attacking unit and a defensive unit.
“Our warm-up Friday will be on a sand-based artificial pitch, to try and replicate what we will experience.
“It’s not an excuse, the pitch. You have to prepare for it, which we are.
“The bounce on it, it’s so difficult to read.
“I was looking at a game there and thinking ‘why are they playing so narrow?’ The channels down from the 18-yard box to the byline are extremely large. It’s a big old pitch.
“These are things we have to adapt to on Saturday. And if we want to be successful and considered a top team, it is what we have to do.”
Ellen White, Marisa Ewers and Sarah Mayling will also be absent for Blues, due to injuries.
Skinner was not happy with the display at Everton and was not placated by the 3-2 win over the Belles last Sunday at St. Andrew’s – until later.
“I think I was, at the time, a little agitated. It was at the stadium, in front of the home fans, we conceded a couple of goals – that skewed my view.
“Reflecting on it, and having watched the game back, I was quite happy. We created chances, we gave a 16-year-old her debut in goal – we were more comfortable that I felt.
“I said the same to the team, that I was pleased with the reaction we gave to the Everton performance.”