Liverpool v Sunderland – 7.45pm, Wednesday 25 March
FA Women’s Super League 1 champions Liverpool will kick off their season at home to newly-promoted Sunderland and defender Becky Easton says her side are expecting to face fired-up opponents.
After claiming the crown in thrilling fashion last season, Matt Beard’s side have boosted their bid for a third consecutive title with several high-profile signings, including England youngster Satara Murray.
Easton believes centre-back Murray will be crucial to her side’s chances this campaign, not least against a Sunderland side that scored 47 goals in 18 games in FA WSL 2 last year.
The season opener on Wednesday will take place in front of the BT Sport cameras at the Select Security Stadium. But the veteran defender is confident that her team-mates will be able to put aside any nerves to ensure their campaign gets off to a winning start.
She said: “Our new signings all look like quality players in training and in our pre-season friendlies, especially Satara Murray. She looks really strong. Not many strikers are going to enjoy playing against her and hopefully she can help us keep some clean sheets.”
“It should be a great game against Sunderland to kick off the league season. It’s nice to be at home for the first game and hopefully that can play to our advantage.”
“I’m sure it will be a tough fixture because it is their first game in WSL 1. We have played some friendlies against them in the past and they will definitely be up for it.”
“The fact that it is on television does mean there might be a few extra nerves in the squad but we have got a lot of experience now so hopefully we can just ignore the cameras and play our game.”
After holding off Doncaster Rovers Belles to secure The FA WSL 2 title last year, Sunderland will look to be positive as they attempt to establish themselves in the top tier, according to defender Hayley Sharp.
And with the Black Cats squad enhanced by the recent return of star midfielder Rachel Furness from injury, Sharp is looking forward to an early test of her side’s FA WSL 1 credentials.
“We know it’s going to be a good challenge,” she said. “We’re the underdogs but we’re ready for the challenge and it will be a great opportunity to see what we can do.
“We’ve got Suzanne Mulvey and Victoria Williams that have come into the side, while they’ve also made a few changes. We know we’ll need to play well against them for the whole game but we’ll see what happens and we are really up for it.
“It’s exciting to play in front of the TV cameras but we’ve got a job to do and need to keep our heads.
“Getting Rachel back is massive as she’s a big player for us and it was great to get her back for the pre-season win against Durham so I’m sure she’ll be raring to go.”
Select Security Stadium – Live on BT Sport 1