When asked whether Manchester City’s fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester United are season season-defining, Gareth Taylor’s answer was simple: “They are.”
City travel to Borehamwood to face the Gunners on Sunday in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, a must-win match for both sides if they are to keep up their respective title races.
Usually a point in north London would represent a good result for City but with defending champions Chelsea and Manchester-rivals United flying high, anything less than a win could prove a hammer blow.
“I'm not going to lie, I've said it previously, I think these are big games and I think it's important to stay in the hunt and if we want to maintain the challenge and the good situation that we're in currently,” Taylor said.
"I think all of the teams now are looking at the crunch part of the season and these games will certainly tell us a lot about where we are and where we're going.
"Any kind of draw, defeat, negative can cost you a little bit so you need to be as consistent as possible and that's difficult to achieve over a season.
“If the league had more teams then I think there'd be more of what we're seeing in the Premier League with the men's in terms of the changes after teams suffering a couple of defeats.
"I think it's really difficult to take two or maybe three defeats in the WSL and still maintain a really healthy challenge at the top.
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) February 5, 2021
“You've got to be there and you've got to hang in there and try not to give away anything at all really.
"City have struggled with injuries recently; young players have been drafted onto the bench, others have been utilised in unnatural positions.
However, Taylor confirmed that three players should be returning, with two others who will be assessed.
“The good news is that we are looking like we are gaining a couple back who were missing for West Ham,” he said.
“The likes of Janine Beckie, Esme Morgan and Jess Park should be available. That is helping us in terms of numbers.
“In regards to Sam Mewis and Demi Stokes, we will see. We have another day to prepare but that will be close.
“The important thing is that if they are not ready for Sunday, we can get them back for the next game [against Manchester United].”
The WSL currently only has 12 teams, with 22 games a season being played. There have regularly been calls for expansion and that is something which the Manchester City boss confirmed he supports.
"I think it [the WSL expanding] would help the competition,” he said. “I think it would certainly develop it. I think there's teams in the Championship who are capable of making that kind of step up but it is what it is.
"The competition is what it is for the time being.
“We have to work with that, but I just think for that kind of excitement and the ebbing and flowing of challenges at the top end of the table and at the bottom as well, it would certainly maybe be more beneficial but I'm sure that's something the FA are looking into and whether it's capable of achieving that.”
City have lost their last three away league matches against Arsenal, winning each of their previous two home meetings – the most recent of which came before the winter break with the Blues winning 2-1.
The first of two difficult contests in a week, it is one which the Manchester City regards as a ‘highly competitive game.’
“They are a good team,” Taylor said. “They have got good players. It is always going to be a really highly competitive game.
“We have shown some decent form. We are scoring goals and they always have the ability to score goals. We have just overtaken them in goals scored.
“They had a purple patch early in the season of high-scoring games. They are dangerous. We need to be ready for it.
“We just have to win the game. Staying in the game early on is important. This team has showed real resilience and managing the game in the early parts will be important.”