RACHEL ROWE insists “there is no reason” why Reading Women cannot upset Manchester City Women and move into the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend.
Royals are set to return to competitive action for the first time since their debut WSL 1 campaign ended in November with a trip to last season’s unbeaten champions.
And while the draw could not have been harder for Kelly Chambers’ charges, Wales international Rowe says it is one she saw coming.
“I said from the start I thought we’d draw Man City and a few of us were the same,” she told The Wokingham Paper.
“There’s a lot of local derbies in the draw and what better way to start it for us.
“Obviously it’s against the top dogs from last season. There were positives and negatives when we got told but I think it’s a good game to go into to set us up.
“There is no reason why we can’t win that game so why not set ourselves up with a challenge and see how we’re going to go and start the mini season.”
City won the league at a canter last year, conceding just four goals all campaign, but they have since gone on to strengthen their squad further.
The most notable arrival is 34-year-old American international Carli Lloyd. And the two-time, reigning FIFA world player of the year could make her debut on Saturday, a prospect Rowe is relishing.
“It’s hard to believe that they can better their side with the individuals they had,” she said.
“But they seem to have gone above and beyond again.
“The big names that are already in there plus the likes of Carli Lloyd are coming in.
“Obviously everybody is chatting about it, but we’ll see what happens and what team they put out on the field on Saturday.
“We can only deal with what’s put in front of us. It’s 11 v 11 at the end of the day.
“I’m looking forward to it. There’s nothing I like more than having a challenge and putting myself up against the bigger players.
“I don’t get scared of them. You just have to grab the opportunity.”
Reading have been strengthening their own squad in the lengthy off-season with a large number of players arriving and leaving.
Chambers named her 18-player squad this week for the upcoming Spring Series, including winter arrivals Brooke Chaplen, Anna Green, Rachel Furness and Mandy van den Berg plus youngsters Sophie O’Rourke and Tamsin De Bunsen.
“It’s unusual because as much as a lot of new people have come in, there’s still a core of us that are still here,” said Rowe.
“It still feels like the Reading that have been here as much as it’s changed.
“It’s still our philosophies that are the same and the girls have just come into that and bought into it and have been doing really well.
“All the new signings are different characters but all very strong players and good additions to our team and what we need to go forward and compete in the leagues to come.”
She added: “We’ve had to be a tight-knit squad because we’ve had short numbers and a couple of injuries and niggles.
“But there’s no better way to get to know people than when there’s a small group.
“You all spend so much time together as a small group. It’s been good for us all really.
“We’ve all got to know each other a bit more and we’ve got a bit closer and the buzz around
the place is really good.”
And Rowe says she has been impressed by the youngsters who have joined the first team squad.
“They’ve been doing fantastic,” she said.
“Sophie (O’Rourke) is so petite and so quick. She’s technically so good with her feet.
“You literally blink and she’s gone!
“Tamsin (De Bunsen) is so strong. Her shooting technique, she’s phenomenal in front of goal so they’ve been two additions and they’ve been integrated in and haven’t looked back since.
“As long as they keep pushing on, there’s no reason why they can’t excel in this environment.”