Manchester City manager Nick Cushing says he won’t rotate his squad unnecessarily ahead of Thursday night’s Champions League second-round return leg against Norwegian champions LSK Kvinner.
Despite a thumping 5-0 win in Lillestrom last week which has all but assured City’s progression to the quarterfinals for the second year running, the manager appears unwilling to make major changes, while defender Jennifer Beattie stated the players have to treat the game as if it’s 0-0.
Cushing confirmed only long-term absentees Tessel Middag and Pauline Bremer will be unavailable for the game, but hinted he’s not planning on making wholesale changes.
“The problem with rotating here is we have high competition for places,” said Cushing, before adding, “The only way we’ll get consistent performances in all competitions is to make sure that competition is earned.
“We have players who are playing really, really well, I’m not a believer that you rotate just because you’re 5-0 up. It will be a difficult game and we’ll make sure we put the strongest team out, not just to try and win the game but to put on a performance where we make sure our crowd grows.”
It was a sentiment echoed by defender Beattie, who says the players will not be approaching the game from the mindset of having a comfortable five goal cushion.
“We’ve said it in training that in our heads it’s 0-0 and we have to treat it like any other game. We want to get to the next round and we’re confident of doing that.”
One position Cushing has been forced to rotate in is the goalkeeper the department, with regular No. 1 Karen Bardsley having been out injured since fracturing her leg at the European Championships in the summer.
Cushing used the Spring Series earlier this year to give opportunities to experienced No. 2 Marie Hourihan and England U-19 international Ellie Roebuck. Both have had opportunities since thanks to Bardsley’s injury, with Roebuck also starting Sunday’s league game against Bristol City despite Bardsley’s return to fitness.
On how he picks his goalkeeper for each given match, Cushing was more lighthearted in his approach to the subject.
“I leave it to the goalkeeper coach,” he laughed.
“But seriously, Karen’s our number one, she’s a top goalkeeper who plays for England, but her injury gave Marie and Ellie a chance and that’s how football works. Sometimes opportunity falls when you’re not expecting it, some players will take that opportunity and for some it may be too big for them to take.
“Ellie has really stepped up, for a young goalkeeper she’s proved she’s got the potential to be a top, top goalkeeper. We want to make sure KB is in the right place so that when we’re in semi-finals, finals and important games later in the season, the goalkeeper in the best form and best physical state can play.”
Given the rotation on show between the sticks, it’s a testament to the quality of all three that City have a 100 percent record in all competitions this season. They sit on five wins out of five in the FA WSL, three from three in the Champions League, and two from two in the Continental Cup.
Not only is Cushing pleased with the running run, the boss is particularly pleased the team are improving in front of goal, something which has been a long-term target for the City manager.
“In 2016, we won the league and we had the perfect start before the first international break. This year, we weren’t trying to focus on things we’d done before, we want to improve and be a better offensive team.
“It’s been perfect in that we’ve won, but we’ve been better in creating and scoring, goals are coming from all over the pitch.”