Manchester Women’s Futsal Club head coach Abdallah Mohamed believes his side can bounce back from their FA Futsal Cup disappointment with victory against Liverbirds on Saturday.
Despite winning four of their six fixtures in the regional qualifying round, Manchester were just edged out of progressing to the next stage of the competition, an outcome not representative of their hard work on the day.
But, after drawing 4-4 with Liverbirds last time out in the Women’s National League, and beating them 5-1 in a 25-minute clash in the Cup, Mohamed is hoping to build on that this weekend.
“We are aware of how dangerous Liverbirds can be, but I also think our ladies are prepared for the game tomorrow,” he said.
“Based on the last few results, I think our opponents will come out stronger and push us all the way. As the home team, we really need to absorb the pressure and dictate the play from the off.
“If we show the same attitude as we did in the cup game, we have every chance to come out with a very good result.
“My message in the build up to the game has mainly been about controlling the tempo; we will be playing on a bigger court so it's important that all the players have confidence in their ability.
“Hopefully it has all the makings of another classic derby match.”
Set to take place at Powerleague Trafford, Saturday’s clash will be Manchester’s first home league game of the season, after previously travelling to the Tranmere Futsal Centre for their first contest with Liverbirds, and to the Birmingham International Futsal Arena for the rest of their league fixtures.
And Mohamed is keen for his players to use this to their advantage, adding: “It adds to the excitement for all of us, and gives us that extra motivation to do well.”
With Manchester currently sitting just two points behind league leaders Gloucester University, it is possible for them to regain their lead at the top of the division tomorrow, should they beat Liverbirds and Bristol City beat Gloucester.
As there are now only four games left throughout the remainder of the season, Mohamed knows his team have a realistic shot at claiming the league title, something which they are all determined to achieve.
“After the disappointment of the cup, all our attention has turned to the league, and the players are really motivated to finish the season strongly,” he said.
“Our full focus is on tomorrow’s game and beyond.
“The league has been really competitive and it’s really difficult to judge who is going to win it, but my players have that hunger and desire to make it a successful season, which is brilliant to see."
There will be several notable absentees from the squad this weekend, however. Lauren Beckford, Celeste Gardner and Felicity Middleton, who scored 15 goals between them in the Cup, as well as stand-in captain Carol Agostinho, will all be unavailable to play.
Although Mohamed is naturally disappointed to lose some of his side’s best performers, he knows it will give some of their team mates the chance to step up.
“The experienced players have really shone throughout the season and it will be a shame for us that we will be missing so many on Saturday,” he said.
“It was great to see Lauren and Celeste so prolific in front of goal in the cup, and Carol always works exceptionally hard in defence, too. With the addition of impressive new players like Felicity, who can just slot straight into the team, it gives you extra confidence in the squad, and tomorrow is a great example of when I will have to utilise it.
“The rest of my players now have a perfect opportunity to prove what they can do; it’s time for them to get some useful court time and really work on their game and test themselves against very solid opponents.
“The likes of Ilona, Aggy and Kirsty have been great in training and are looking really sharp. I have every confidence in them.”
Elsewhere, Siobhan Watson returns after missing the Cup action, while long-term injury concerns Leanne Skarratt, Becky Pilkington and Jess Hickman remain sidelined.
SQUAD: Meida Pociunaite (c), Ana Marques (GK), Bruna Fontes (GK), Kirsty Allen, Agnieszka Janczuk, Siobhan Watson, Ilona Miterkova.
Manchester Futsal Women’s Club take on Liverbirds Futsal Club at Powerleague Trafford (Trafford Park, Manchester, M17 8DD) on Saturday 27th February, kicking off at 11.30am.
Why not come along and cheer our women on if you can make it – admission is free! If not, you can follow our official Twitter account @MFCWomensFutsal for live updates of the game.