"It's the best game you can have after a defeat" - Casey Stoney ahead of the Manchester Derby
Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

An important clash for Manchester United who are going up against an in-form Manchester City side who are looking to leapfrog their rivals in the Women's Super League table. Should the Citizens win, Casey Stoney's side will find themselves bumped from the top of the WSL.

The top four teams are separated by just nine points and after last weekend where three of the top four teams lost, points aren't automatically given Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. 

"Obviously we're disappointed because we had an opportunity on Sunday to put ourselves in a really good position and we didn't take it. But we had a bit of fortune that some of the others didn't either. It keeps us in and around [the top]," said Stoney.

"Our priority has always been Champions League, my targets have never changed. I think potentially looking at the other results, I thought [Man City] was a must win, but now I don't think it will define the season based on the results on Sunday, I think there is potential for that to happen again.

"I think it's [the title race] been tight before but it's normally a two team race. To have that many teams involved, that close and that tight, it's fantastic for the women's game."

  • It's just another game

At this point in the season and after a week of the top four playing each other, disappointing results against direct rivals are usually seen as season defining. But this importance to matches between the top of the table clubs were given because they usually didn't drop points against 'outsiders.' 

After a strong summer of recruitment across the board, this WSL campaign has brought back excitement and unpredictability. City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea have all dropped points to teams outside the top four. Stoney insist that the clash against City is a must win, but it will not be a deciding match come the end of the season:

"There's lots of games and lots of football to be played. All teams are capable; Brighton to Chelsea, Reading to us, so who knows what's gonna happen.

"All we can focus on is us and yes, it's a big game but it's just another game and I genuinely don't think it will define the season. It's going to be a very difficult game for us, but I think it's the best game that you can have after a defeat in terms of wanting to bounce back."

  • On City's strengths

Manchester City have won all four WSL matches played in the new year, scoring 20 and conceding just two. In their recent match against Arsenal, Ellen White surpassed Vivianne Miedema as the WSL's all-time top goal scorer.

"I think they [Man City] are one of the best teams in the league right now in terms of their consistency in performances the way they move the ball. Look at the depth in their squad, the money they've spent, they're really hitting form now," said Stoney.

"I think when you can start Rose Lavelle, Lucy Bronze, Abby Dahlkemper, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp, when you can make those sort of signings and you have that budget it obviously does make a huge impact. You've got the world's best playing in your backline."

"They've got an abundance of attacking threat going forward and an abundance of options. They're a very good side and I think Sam Mewis is a different level when it comes to midfielders who can power through and carry the ball, it gives them a massive threat from set pieces as well.

"I don't know what's going on with Mewis, she hasn't been in the squad for a couple of weeks but I can guarantee she will be back in on Friday."

  • Last time out

This will be the third meeting of the two sides this season after meeting for the reverse fixture and for the Continental Cup both of which ended in draws in regular time. United went to win on penalties in the Conti Cup. 

After being down 2-0 at half-time at Leigh Sports Village in November, Stoney's side fought back to finish the match 2-2. 

"I thought they were really good in the first half [last time out]. We actually started bright, but they took complete control of the game and we need to learn from that game," said Stoney.

"We have to do the hard work, commit to the game plane and get our press right. I admit that I didn't get it right in the first half of that game and we need to make sure that we go into it with full belief that we can win the game. I believe in my squad, yes we've got a few injuries but for me that's no excuse it just gives someone else an opportunity.

"They've got threats all over the pitch, but I know that my team are very capable of defending. Looking at the second half against them here, we kept them out, we kept them quiet, we scored two goals. We have to perform like that.

"If you watch our team we tend to defend differently in most games depending on the opposition. We played against Arsenal who have threats all over the pitch and we didn't concede, we barely got a shot so when we defend well, we give ourselves a platform to win."