The Lionesses travel to London rivals Charlton Athletic on Sunday, as they play their first game of the season in the Continental Cup. After a summer of wholesale changes, the Millwall squad and coaching staff are brand new and are set to cause an uproar in the newly designed Women's Championship.
Along with the Addicks, there are a number of new teams in the Women's game such as Manchester United and Leicester, so this campaign is a season of expect the unexpected. While many have wrote the Lionesses chances off already, Chris Phillips and his side have prepared well for what will be one of the most competitive seasons ever in Women's football.
Leanne Cowan and Georgie Giddings are the only first team players who remain from last season at the club, as this summer has seen a lot of the under-23's take the step up to the match day squad. These young Lionesses will look to gain from valuable experience and grow as a team.
Chris has recruited well this summer by bringing in young promising players, but also has enough quality to ensure the Lionesses have a side that has the capability to do well this season. Along with Grace Taylor who returned back from London Bees, promising striker Evie Clarke has also joined the side after her spells at Arsenal and London Bees. The young forward was keen to link back up with Phillips and already stated Chris was a big factor in joining the Lionesses.
Beth Powell, Annie Rossiter, Freya Bailes, Michelle Young and Beth Harford all made the step up and will be looking to feature regularly in Chris' side. All were part of what was a very successful season for the under 23's side who finished 3rd, with only Arsenal and Chelsea finishing above the young Lionesses.
Leanne is set to start her 13th season for the Lionesses. The speedy full-back stayed with the club in the summer after the club looked in real threat of going into administration. Chris rewarded Leanne for her loyalty, as the full back was given the captaincy for the 2018/19 season.
The passion from Leanne was clear to see in the last campaign and she has shown this same desire throughout pre-season. She will now take her side into a season of new beginnings and she radiates a real buzz around the club. Although still young herself, she is someone that the younger players in the squad can look up to and this is an important reason why Chris gave her the armband.
Leanne doesn't score often, but when she does they end up being very important goals. Her goals against Watford and Brighton last season were vital, as both helped the Lionesses gain victories. Her work rate on and off the ball is second to none and now as captain of the side, Leanne will aim to set an example to her teammates.
The Addicks didn't exactly get off to the best possible start last Sunday, when they were thumped 5-0 away against Lewes in Match-Day 1 of the Continental Cup. As Match-Day 2 approaches for the South London side, they will be hoping to turn it around.
After promotion last season from the Women's National League, Charlton recruited well, with signings including Gemma Bryan from Crystal Palace as well as keeping hold of Kit Graham. Addicks manager Riteesh's main aim will be to make Charlton competitive in this division, but after the humbling last weekend, Charlton have been shown the standard you have to be at to compete at this level.
Although Graham came off of the bench on Sunday when Charlton were already 3-0 down, she has been influential for Charlton and had fired them up to the top of the division in their promotion season. Alongside her, Gemma Bryan also featured by coming off the bench, but both may start Sunday as they look for their first win.
Millwall will take to the field for the first time this Sunday and all the players are in contention to start. A London derby which could see tempers flare, it will be interesting to see which side can keep their cool at the right time and get the job done on the day.
Team: Charlton Athletic
Competition: League Cup
Venue: VCD Athletic, Crayford
Date: Sunday 26th August
See you there!