The pressure is on, says Matt Beard, as WSL’s Merseyside derby heads towards Anfield

Liverpool boss Matt Beard admits a packed Anfield could get on one’s nerves but insists his side are more than prepared for Sunday’s stellar showdown with Everton.

The Women’s Super League competition marks the first time since 2019 that the newly promoted Reds have played a Merseyside derby at Premier League grounds.

But Beard believes any impact the big stage might have will affect both sides equally.

“It’s a different opportunity to play at Anfield, that will put a little extra pressure on us, but then Everton too because they’re coming to one of football’s most legendary stadiums,” he said.

“The Merseyside derby, both teams are under pressure, it’s being televised live and there’s expected to be a lot of spectators, so it’s special for both teams. We just have to focus on ourselves.

“I think once the whistle blows and they cross that white line I have every confidence in the group that we can perform well and work like we did the other day.”

Liverpool opened their season with a 2-1 win over holders Chelsea, who are aiming for a fourth consecutive title this season.

Everton won the last Merseyside derby 1-0 thanks to a long-range effort from Lucy Graham, who will captain her side ahead of a sell-out away game at Anfield on Sunday.

“All the players, all the staff know how much it means to win a derby in this city,” she said live on Instagram.

Liverpool manager Matt Beard confident his squad can handle the pressure (Nigel French/PA)

(PA Archive)

“I think the players that were brought in know now that this game is a big game and it’s going to be fast on the calendar in our season.

“We’re very grateful for that because it’s going to really give us a taste of this fight where you have to find it within yourself to really roll up your sleeves and fight. It should be a real stepping stone for us to reach those heights as the season progresses.”

Manchester City will travel to a sold-out Kingsmeadow on Sunday to take on holders Chelsea, with both sides looking to pick up their first points of the season.

Conti-Pokal holders City saw a huge turnover of players over the summer and the 4-3 defeat by Villa in the season opener suggested the new recruits would need more time to establish themselves.

Both Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City and Emma Hayes’ Chelsea lost their opening contests (Yui Mok/PA)

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Boss Gareth Taylor, however, did not see City’s or Chelsea’s opening day results as a surprise.

“The game is never played on paper,” he said. “People assume beforehand that the game is over, but we have seen that the level has really increased in WSL. Everyone improves.

“We’re a new group of players who are adjusting to each other and there have been some changes but we’re comfortable with that and we know that eventually we’ll come out the other side and be really good at the place.”

Blues boss Emma Hayes could be without midfielder Pernille Harder because of a hamstring injury.

Chelsea had a string of sell-out games last season and Hayes is happy to see other teams starting to see their own boosts at the box office.

“I’m really happy to hear about the attendance gains across the board because the league has to be strong for everyone,” she said.

“I think we just have to keep thinking about the support we give to each club to ensure they can continue to achieve their own goals and we can grow to the next area in the game.”

Brighton and Reading both hope to pick up their first points of the season when they meet.

Manchester United, who beat the Royals 4-0 last weekend, travel to West Ham while Leicester host Aston Villa. The pressure is on, says Matt Beard, as WSL’s Merseyside derby heads towards Anfield

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