They say nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal – and Arsenal midfielder Lia Walti admits her side will be wary of the threat posed by Manchester City on Sunday.
Arsenal sealed their place in a third straight FA Women’s Continental League Cup final in midweek with a 2-1 victory against league rivals City at Meadow Park.
But the two teams meet again at the Academy Stadium this weekend in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, where they are currently level on points at the top of the table.
And despite being delighted to reach the league cup final, Walti insists the league encounter is more important for the rewards that come with it.
“It’s always hard to play teams twice in a row, especially top teams like that,” said the 26-year-old Swiss midfielder. “We need to prepare, it’s going to be a new game.
“For me, this game is more important because we want to win the league, we want to go into the Champions League.
“Every time you’re losing you want to win the next game as a top team so City will definitely change their plan, it’s going to be a completely new game. Nothing is won yet.”
Goals from Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk ensured Arsenal came out on top in their Continental League Cup clash, with Gemma Bonner grabbing a consolation for City.
But Sunday’s game will be important for more than just the title race as it will also be the last time Nick Cushing takes charge of the Citizens before he departs for America.
Cushing is leaving the Sky Blues to become assistant manager at MLS men’s team New York City, having won six trophies since taking over the Manchester club in November 2013.
Walti is well aware that Arsenal will face a completely different test when they meet City for the second time in a week, admitting that they had to grind out the result on Wednesday.
“It feels good to reach the league cup final. It’s always our goal before the season starts to reach as many finals as possible, and we did well to do that,” said Walti.
“That wasn’t the style we usually want to play our football, but sometimes you’ve got to play for a result and to manage the game in the end, and I think we did it well.”
Walti is also desperate to put the disappointment of their 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in their last Women’s Super League game behind them – taking inspiration from their midweek triumph.
“We defended really well as a team against City, everyone worked hard,” she added. “If we’d played like that against Chelsea last week then I think we could have got another result.
“This is what we train for, for these top games, and we wanted to make it better after Chelsea. We knew how Man City were going to play, we had our gameplan and it worked.”
Meanwhile, City captain Steph Houghton has urged her teammates to show more belief in themselves as the Blues look to bounce back immediately from their semi-final disappointment.
“Arsenal are a good team, but so are we,” she said. “I know a lot of teams put us down in terms of the way we play football, but we’ve got good players, international players who perform on the highest level.
“So for us it’s just about recovering as quickly as we possibly can and making sure that come Sunday we’re going to go fight for this league.”