Lucy Bronze: 'The Champions League race with Man United has intensified our rivalry'

Manchester City's Lucy Bronze

In her exclusive column for GiveMeSport Women, England and Manchester City superstar Lucy Bronze discusses the end of the season and the race for the final Champions League qualifying spot.

It’s been a season of two halves, both for myself and Manchester City. I didn’t play the first half of the campaign because of injury, which was frustrating, but I’m now back on the pitch and getting better game by game.

Similarly, Manchester City weren’t doing well in the first half of the season, but we’ve since been getting the results we need and picking up points.

We’re arguably one of the most in-form teams in the Women’s Super League right now. We’ve only lost once in 2022, and that was away to Chelsea.

Aside from that, we’ve won the Continental Cup, got to the FA Cup Final and it’s all to play for in terms of Champions League qualification.

I think we’ve done a lot better than people expected back at Christmas, when we were struggling. Now we just have to finish the season with a bang!

Manchester City Women

Battle for Champions League football

Of course, there’s always an increased pressure on players when football goes right down to the wire. It happened to us last season with the title race, and now we’re battling it out with Manchester United for the last Champions League spot.

But we’ve had the same pressure on us since Christmas. We knew we had to win every single game to keep ourselves within touching distance of the top of the table.

It got to the point where we just had to get results, get points on the board no matter what, and we’ve shown we’re capable of doing that. I think that mentality puts us in good stead for the last game of the season.

It’s exciting that the Champions League battle is between City and United. The rivalry might not be as historic as in men’s football, but the matches we’ve played this year have been fiercely-contested.

United will be desperate to qualify for the Champions League. They’ve never qualified before, and they have a good group of young, talented players who will be eager to play European football.

I’m sure preventing Manchester City from qualifying will be a big motivation for the players too!

Manchester City's Lucy Bronze against Manchester United's Kirsty Hanson

Player of the season

It’s hard to pick Manchester City’s player of the season, because our campaign has been so varied.

Alex Greenwood is a standout – she has featured in every single game, and was still putting in brilliant performances when there were a lot of other players missing from the back line.

Caroline Weir has come up with big goals at big moments, while Lauren Hemp has been excellent too.

But I think Keira Walsh has been the player most pivotal to our style of football. She picks the ball up off the goalkeeper, and then takes on three players to start the attack, before someone else takes the plaudits for the goal!

I think if Keira had been fit all season, it would have been a different story in terms of our position in the league and the results we’ve had.

She’s player that makes the team tick – the manager and the team know that, but I don’t think people on the outside realise what a key member of the squad she is.

My picks for player of the season across the WSL are also quite underrated. I think Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert have been critical for Chelsea in recent months. Those two have definitely caught my eye this season.

Preparing for the FA Cup Final

The FA Cup Final may be a week after the conclusion of the WSL, but we’re not worried about losing our focus.

It helps that a lot of the Manchester City squad are hoping to play for England at Euro 2022. Most of us were already planning on continuing to train after the end of the season anyway.

I’d much rather be training an extra week to fight for a trophy against Chelsea than having a week off at home and training in my garage!

We won’t be hoping for a certain outcome in the WSL title race. Chelsea could win the league, and it could be a good thing or a bad thing for them in terms of the FA Cup Final. You never know. We’re just focusing on ourselves at the moment.

We’re in really good form, and we’ve got a lot of players who are performing really well. We just want to carry on that momentum.

I know that if we play our best football on the day, we can win that game. That’s the most important thing at the end of the day. We know we are capable of beating anyone.

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