For Shelley Kerr, Sunday’s game against Bristol Academy is all about progression and building momentum.
Arsenal Ladies begin a triple-header of games against Mark Sampson’s team with a Continental Cup clash at Meadow Park and qualification to the semi-finals of the tournament is on the agenda.
The equation is simple. The Ladies will qualify for the last four with a draw while Bristol are already out of the competition, having been beaten by both Lincoln and Birmingham City.
After Sunday’s clash, the teams meet again a week later in the FA Cup final before facing each other once more in the Women’s Super League on May 30.
Kerr admits such a scenario is rare but she does not believe Sunday’s result will have an impact on the upcoming fixtures between the teams.
“Our situation is different from Bristol's,” she told Arsenal.com. “I don't think there will be any sort of psychological effect. It's a separate game.
“You prepare differently for a cup final. For me, the most pressure game is the semi-final, because you want to be there. The final should be an enjoyable occasion.
“It's quite unique in that it's three different competitions so every game will be different. There will be a different approach for them all. We go into Sunday's game knowing that we have to get something out of the game to get to the next stage of the competition.
[Bristol] are exceptionally talented and we know how much of a threat they will beShelley Kerr
“Once we've got over that hurdle, we have to regroup and think about how we approach the FA Cup final. You've just got to take a game at a time because they will all be different.
“Bristol have invested in the two Spanish girls who are very talented players. They have some dangerous players but it's all about the team. Everyone has to gel together. They are exceptionally talented and we know how much of a threat they will be.”
Kerr’s side go into Sunday’s game off the back of a 1-1 draw at Lincoln in the WSL on Wednesday night. Despite dominating proceedings at Sincil Bank, the Ladies were indebted to Steph Houghton’s stunning strike on the stroke of full-time after Emily Roberts had given the hosts the lead just seconds before.
While Arsenal didn’t get the result their play merited, the performance was one which Kerr is hoping they can build on at Meadow Park on Sunday.
“The girls showed great character,” Kerr said. “We gelled really well as a team on Wednesday night, which was pleasing.
“We've had all these cup games which has been difficult for us to cope with. However, I think there's been enough evidence at training and on the pitch to give us positive vibes about the team.
“For me, the performance against Lincoln was similar to that when we beat Birmingham 6-0 in the FA Cup. It's just about trying to build on that and get an end product now.''
For me, the performance against Lincoln was similar to that when we beat Birmingham 6-0 in the FA Cup. It's just about trying to build on that and get an end product nowShelley Kerr
Recent injury absentees Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey will both be assessed in the lead up to the game. Smith has not featured since injuring her ankle against ASD Torres two months ago while Yankey has missed the Ladies’ last three games.
Kerr acknowledges that the team have missed both players, though she has been impressed with the players who have been given their opportunity as a consequence.
“Injuries give players a chance to come in and showcase what they have,” she said. “We have been struggling a little bit with injuries. I make no excuses about that because it's football and other teams will experience that at different times in the season.
“The injuries haven't helped us but the players who have come in are more than capable of doing a good job. I always say it's about the whole squad and not just the players who are starting in one particular game. It's been encouraging that they've come in and done well.”Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source