Everton Ladies are champing at the bit to kick off their WSL 1 campaign when they take on rivals Liverpool on Friday night.
Live on BT Sport, the Blue Girls open against their Merseyside neighbours at the Select Security Stadium, having had to wait almost three months to return to competitive action after lifting the Spring Series title back in May.
Head Coach Andy Spence admits that while pre-season contests against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal have been useful exercises in terms of getting up to speed with top-flight football, nothing compares to kicking off the new campaign with a derby.
“We’ve obviously had pre-season games but nothing beats that feeling of game week,” he told evertonfc.com. “It was nice to say to the players on Monday ‘it’s finally arrived, we’re actually playing a competitive match!’
“I see it as a reward for all their hard work, and those of the staff and the people off the pitch as well to get us in this position. We’re all delighted, we’re on the TV and we’re back in WSL1.
“The players Liverpool have brought in are senior internationals so they’ve got plenty of threats. We know the quality of an Alex Greenwood, who was with us previously, from set-play situations. They had a number of girls who were at the Euros, like Siobhan Chamberlain who was England’s number one in the recent game against Russia.
“They’re a good team but the pleasing thing for me to say is that so are we. We have played Liverpool in the past couple of years in cup competitions and probably went into the games feeling it’d be nice to get a result. This time we expect to get a result and that expectation only comes from the belief and the confidence that we’ve all got in each other and what we’ve done in pre-season.
“We expect to be picking up results straight away and none more so than in the first game.”
Everton will monitor the fitness of striker Simone Magill and midfielder Olivia Chance following the pair’s recent international appearances for Northern Ireland and New Zealand respectively.
Otherwise, Spence has a fully-fit squad to choose from, meaning there could potentially be seven debuts on Friday night. Those new faces, however, have been well briefed on what to expect from a derby atmosphere.
“I was speaking to Marthe Munsterman and Siri Worm about the significance of a derby game and they said ‘don’t worry, the other girls have already told us, we’re ready for it’!” he added.
“The other girls we’ve brought in, the likes of Angharad James and Jodie Brett, have played in a number of derbies for their previous clubs but I always think Liverpool v Everton games are unique and can’t truly be replicated, especially given how close the games usually are. So I think there’s a big opportunity for all of us to go and enjoy Friday and get the result we want.”