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Sarri ready for cup opener

7 October 2020

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United women full-back Veatriki Sarri is looking forward to the kick-off of another Continental League Cup campaign when the Blades travel to face familiar opposition in the form of Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

Neil Redfearn's side have once again been drawn against last year's FA Women's Championship champions, as well as Durham and Coventry United, with the group winners progressing to the quarter-finals.

Despite defeat at Villa in the competition one year ago, United still won their group in impressive fashion, leading to a quarter-final against then holders Manchester City in the quarter-finals.

With a cup pedigree behind them, Sarri is ready for another go at progressing from their group this time around.

"We're looking forward to it, especially having not played on Sunday. We're even more eager to get on the pitch and when you're playing a team from the FA WSL, you really want to give everything and show that we should be in that division too, we watch to match that level."

The Blades have a good record when it comes to Continental Cup openers. In 2018, the team's first competitive match at this level was a 2-1 win away at Villa, while last year saw the team come back away at Liverpool with two dramatic late goals from Maddy Cusack and Jade Pennock.

Building on the spirit shown in that late win against a team which at the time was in the FA Women's Super League, Sarri believes it's another case of her and her team mates being able to go out and play knowing the pressure is on the opposition.

"Definitely, we've got nothing to lose. In general, when you're playing an FA WSL team, it's the kind of occasion you want to be involved in.

"I always look forward to playing those kinds of teams like we played Liverpool last season, and we're hoping for a similar result. Nothing to lose, we're really excited about it."

This will be the eighth meeting between the two sides over the last two years, with the two teams becoming familiar opponents and last season rivals at the top of the Championship.

While it was Villa who earned promotion, Wednesday's opponents are yet to pick up a point in the FA WSL after a difficult start, while United have maintained an unbeaten start to the new Championship campaign.

"Our morale is high. We're doing well, training hard, the environment is great and I'm really looking forward to playing Villa because I feel like we didn't get the results we wanted last season. I'd like to change that hopefully when we play them this time."

United started the season in emphatic fashion with a 4-1 win at London City Lionesses before following that up with a 2-2 draw at home to Leicester City.

Last time out, a 4-0 win at home to London Bees kept the Blades top of the league, but Sarri and the rest of the team were unable to build on that when Sunday's visit to Charlton Athletic was postponed.

Even so, the Greece international is pleased with the way the squad has started the new campaign ahead of a busy period of fixtures.

"The performances have been good considering we've not hard the pre-season we would normally have with the protocols. I think it's been pleasing but I also think there's loads more to come from us, definitely."

The Continental Cup was at times used to rotate the United squad last season, with some of the team's younger players gaining valuable game time.

This season, both quality and depth within the squad is at an all-time high, and Sarri believes whatever team head coach Neil Redfearn chooses to field will be a strong one on Wednesday night.

"It's probably the strongest squad we've had. I think every single player can step up and fight for a shirt. All of the players are great, training has been great and the standard has been lifted, so I think it's great for us."

Sheffield United Women travel to Aston Villa tonight (7:30pm) for the team's Continental Cup opener. The game will be played behind closed doors. Extended highlights and the full match will be available to watch on Thursday on the FA Player and SUFCW social media channels.

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