Champions League-chasing Man City show squad strength ahead of season-defining

After beating FA Cup finalists Everton, City now face a Champions League tie against Swedish champions Goteborg, with Arsenal sandwiched in between

When Manchester City beat Everton on Sunday, Toffees manager Willie Kirk could have been forgiven for feeling a bit jealous of his opposite number, Gareth Taylor.

While Kirk had just four outfield players on his bench, his squad hit heavily by injuries, Champions League and World Cup winners were among the five substitutes Taylor introduced in a 3-0 win.

“I think it’s probably the strongest squad I’ve ever been a part of,” Caroline Weir, who assisted all three of City’s goals at Walton Hall Park, said after the game.

“We know we’ve got quality players in different positions that are going to pop up at the right time. Three different goalscorers [today] – that’s the good thing about such a big squad and such a quality squad.”

There was no better time for that squad depth to come to the fore and show its worth. Sunday’s clash with Everton, who took City to extra time in the FA Cup final last month, was the beginning of a big 10 days for Taylor’s side.

On Wednesday, they take on Swedish champions Goteborg in the last 32 of the Women’s Champions League. A clash against fellow Women’s Super League title-contenders Arsenal will follow, before the second leg of that European tie just days later.

But City, like Chelsea, have assembled a squad with this depth and strength because they don’t only harbour ambitions of going all the way in Europe’s premier competition, but in every competition.

Against Everton, Jill Scott, England’s second most-capped player of all time, was starting her first WSL game of the season. Janine Beckie, an Olympic Bronze medallist with Canada, was starting her first for two months. Meanwhile, Gemma Bonner, a two-time WSL title winner, was back in the centre of defence after two games on the bench.

The latter two ended the game on the scoresheet as City secured a big result over a difficult opponent. After an inconsistent start to their league campaign, they are now up to fourth in the table.

“We knew that we were going to have to mix things up a little bit, but the players on the pitch who started coped more than well enough,” Taylor said.

There was some bad news for his side, with Rose Lavelle going off injured at half-time and emerging from the interval on crutches.

But there was also some good news on the injury front as Lauren Hemp returned for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in August.

“I don’t think anyone can really imagine the effect [her return] has had,” Taylor explained of the England international.

“For me, she’s one of the top wingers in Europe, let alone in the WSL. She’s a quality player. To get…

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