The FA Women’s Continental League Cup returns this week with two of the four quarter-final ties taking place.
Bristol City host Aston Villa at Twerton Park on Wednesday evening while Crystal Palace welcome Leicester City to Hayes Lane a little over 24 hours later.
For Dean Davenport’s Palace and Jonathan Morgan’s Leicester City, their meeting is unique in the sense that it is the only all-FA Women’s Championship tie in the quarter-finals, meaning that this year will see the novelty of a second tier club competing in the last four of the competition.
FA Women’s Super League Full-Time sat down with The Eagles boss Davenport this evening to discuss what will be one of his side’s biggest games of the season so far.
Palace recorded a first FA Women’s Championship clean sheet since the opening day of the 2019/2020 season on Sunday when they drew 0-0 at neighbours London City Lionesses. That fixture was a typical London derby where neither side held back in a hard-fought encounter.
Davenport will be forced into changes when Leicester City visit Bromley on Thursday evening.
“Amber’s (Stobbs) suspension will kick in on Thursday night and we have got a couple of injuries as well coming out of Sunday which isn’t great” said Davenport. “Kirsty Barton will also be cup-tied so there will be some changes.
“We will put out a competitive team to go and win the game.”
Davenport on the quarter-final tie
The reality of Palace’s quarter-final tie is that the winner will be just 90 minutes away from securing a place in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup final, something which is never in the wildest dreams of an FA Women’s Championship club. For Davenport, he knows that his side have two enormous hurdles to clear to reach the final.
The Eagles boss said “It would be good for the league for sure but obviously, it is going to be tough for whichever team goes through to the semi-finals.
“We are going to set up to be competitive against Leicester but they are a fantastic side.”
Palace are a team who are not always known for clean sheets. What The Eagles have lacked in terms of solidity at times this season has certainly been offset by their attack with the club boasting an impressive array of attacking talent which can produce pace, power and goals. Davenport’s approach to the Leicester City tie is one that attack may be the best form of defence and his side are certainly preparing to cause The Foxes plenty of problems.
“Sitting behind the ball is not for us with the attacking players that we have got so we will look to attack” he said.
“We have got be cautious because they have some very good players, we are also aware that they have Liverpool on Sunday which is a massive game for them.
“Will Jon (Morgan) rest some players? If he does, they will still have a strong side anyway.
“We are preparing as we normally would to face a full-strength Leicester but attacking is the best way of defence and we will set up to do that.”
Palace boss talks Leicester City
Taking on the current FA Women’s Championship leaders will be no easy task for Palace. Manager Davenport rates The Foxes very highly and has no doubt over where the club will finish at the end of the season.
Commenting further on his side’s latest opponents, Davenport said “I think they will win the league, they are the best side that we have played by far.
“Jon has got a great set-up there, obviously some good players involved as well.”
The two sides have already met in the FA Women’s Championship this season having gone head-to-head at Hayes Lane in October. On that occasion, Palace took a fourth-minute lead courtesy of a goal from Cherelle Khassal and they retained their advantage until just before the break when a red card for Amy Taylor sparked a Leicester City comeback. Davenport will highlight that excellent first half performance to his players ahead of their latest meeting with The Foxes on Thursday.
He said “We rocked them for the first 30-35 minutes, obviously scoring the early goal was a good thing.
“It’s tough enough playing Leicester with 11 players without having one taken out.
“For 43 minutes, I thought we did really well. It is something which we will talk to the players about and hopefully, we can have a springboard from that.”
Davenport on his side’s progression
The progression shown by Palace this season can be demonstrated both in their league and domestic cup form. Palace collected 10 points from 14 games in last season’s FA Women’s Championship while they have 12 points from 11 games so far this term. Last season’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup involvement ended at the group stage with three points from an available 15 and a negative goal difference of 19 whereas Palace collected six points from three games in this season’s group stage, scoring 10 goals in the process which included a 6-1 demolition of London Bees.
When speaking about his side’s progression, Davenport said that things are coming together for his side gradually.
“We have put in another structure this year which has helped us a lot training-wise” he said.
“Obviously, that has attracted better players for us which everyone can see from our results.
“Just before Christmas, we started to win some games and that put us in good stead, the game against London City was our best defensively all season.
“The club is going forward, it’s going the right way. We don’t want to rush things but we are pushing on and going in the right direction.”
Looking back on the group stage
Palace qualified for the quarter-finals as one of the two best runners-up in the group stage. The Eagles defeated both FA Women’s Championship opponents in their group fixtures while they were lively against Bristol City despite losing 4-2 at Hayes Lane.
Speaking about his side’s performances in the group stage, Davenport said “We have done relatively well in the Conti Cup, it is a competition which we take seriously.
“There are other teams who play some of their fringe players at times to give them game time but if you are involved in the cup then why not go as far as you can?
“That is the mentality that we have got here, last year we did relatively well but this year we have gone one step further because we have actually got through the group, the next part is getting to the semi-final.
“Our attacking side has improved massively and we have tightened up at the back, now we have started scoring goals.
“Bianca (Baptiste) is on fire at the moment so hopefully that continues and we can keep scoring goals.”
Crystal Palace’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup quarter-final tie against Leicester City is scheduled to kick-off at 8pm on Thursday evening and will be available for fans to stream live on the FA Player.