Manchester City have received a “big boost” with the return of captain Steph Houghton from injury after four months out, says manager Gareth Taylor.
Houghton, who has been out since suffering the ankle injury ahead of England’s meeting with North Macedonia in September, took part in a session with her club on Wednesday, along with team-mate Lucy Bronze.
The England duo are both in contention for Sunday’s Women’s Super League game at Brighton, as City return to action for the first time in 2022 after the winter break.
City boss Taylor said: “It’s great to have Steph back, she’s a big influence for us. She’s our leader, our captain. We’ve missed her.
“Lucy is back and wasn’t able to make her comeback before Christmas. It’s a big boost for everyone to see them.”
City published pictures of her involvement in training this week and she posted, “Oh it’s good to be back!”, in a post on her Twitter.
Houghton has been missed by City in what has been a frustrating season so far, with the team currently sixth in the Women’s Super League.
She will hope for a good run in the second half of the campaign and to re-establish herself in the Lionesses squad ahead of Euro 2022 on home soil this summer.
Can City turn things around against Brighton?
Last season’s runners-up City are sixth in the WSL with 13 points from nine games – seven points off the top three.
Their hugely disappointing campaign to date, in which they have had to cope with considerable injury problems, has featured heavy losses to Arsenal and Chelsea as well as shock reverses against Tottenham and West Ham.
It will be interesting to see how they fare in the New Year as they look to get back up into the top three, with boss Gareth Taylor’s selection options being boosted by players returning.
Two more Covid cases in City camp
City have been hit by two more positive Covid-19 tests in their squad.
Taylor added: “It’s ever-changing. Every 24, 48 hours when we test, it’s throwing up situations with players and staff.”
Leicester travel to Reading on Sunday for the other remaining fixture and manager Lydia Bedford confirmed she too will be without several players who have tested positive for coronavirus.
Bedford said: “We’ve still got a strong squad, but I think like every team, people going home over Christmas has obviously put the squad at a greater risk than if we’d have stayed in training for two weeks.
“We’ve got what we need for the weekend, but we have got a few players who will be missing.”
Three matches postponed as Covid hits WSL
Aston Villa’s game against Everton is the latest of three Women’s Super League match to be called off this weekend due to Covid-19 cases.
Chelsea against Tottenham on Friday has already been postponed due to a combination of Covid-19 cases and injuries in Emma Hayes’ squad, while Manchester United’s WSL trip to West Ham on Sunday has also been called off, due to an outbreak in the Hammers squad.
Both matches were set to be shown live on Sky Sports as the WSL returns from the winter break, but will now be played at a later date.
It is the second WSL game in a row that has been postponed for both Chelsea and West Ham, after their meeting in the final round of fixtures before the winter break was called off because of Covid-19 cases in the Blues squad.