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Manchester City

Houghton ready for biggest game of the season against Man Utd

14:30 GMT+3 05/09/2019
Steph Houghton Manchester City
City kick-off the new season against their newly-promoted rivals at the Etihad Stadium with more than 20,000 tickets already sold

Saturday may see the first Manchester derby in Women’s Super League history, but it’s already the biggest game of the season, according to City defender Steph Houghton.

Manchester United are newly-promoted to the WSL after finishing top of the Championship in their debut professional season - winning 18 of their 20 matches.

And while last season's champions Arsenal, City and Chelsea have occupied the WSL's top three positions for the past four seasons and are expecting to be challenging again, Houghton says the new local rivalry is exactly what the women's game needs.

"Yes I think [it's the biggest game of the season], in terms of the history between the two clubs," the England defender told Goal.

"Obviously from the women’s point of view, the history starts on Saturday. I’m excited because I think this is what women’s football needs in this country, these types of games, these types of rivalries.

"You’ve got the north west derby in terms of Liverpool and Everton, you’ve got Arsenal vs Spurs so it’s getting exciting for the fans to come and watch."

The first professional derby between the two clubs has been switched to the Etihad Stadium and is expected to set a new WSL attendance record with more than 20,000 tickets already sold.

Interest in the women's game is rising fast following the success of the national team, with England reaching the World Cup semi-finals in the summer.

And with record crowds at Lyon, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain last season, there is a growing appeal for club football.

“You look at those fixtures and you want that, you want to be a part of that," Houghton added. "It’s only right that the club is supporting us by playing at the Etihad.

"We’ve got people that want to come and watch us play. We won trophies last season, we’ve played really good football."

England team-mate Georgia Stanway is excited at the emergence of a local rivalry and wants to put down an early marker that City are still the best women's team in the city.

"On a personal level, we’ve always had a rivalry with Chelsea - every semi-final we go into we seem to end up with Chelsea," the 20-year-old told Goal . "That’s our main rival and always has been.

"But with another team now in Manchester, there’s another kind of rivalry and it’s almost personal because we want Manchester to be our colour and all about us.

"All anyone talked about was Manchester City but now Manchester United are on the scene and people will choose sides. We’ve got to make sure they choose Blue."

City Women have played at the Etihad just once before, with their home games normally at the 7,000-capacity Academy Stadium in the shadow of the main 55,000-seater stadium.

Stanway has played in front of more than 40,000 in last season's FA Cup final at Wembley, as well as big crowds with England, but is thrilled to make her first appearance at the Etihad.

"I knew it was going to be the first game of the season and couldn’t believe it was going to be at the Etihad," she added. "For it to be there, it’s massive, it’s just dead exciting.

"I’ve got so many family members coming and it’s one of them where all the support for training and the hard work, you can give back to your family. They’re going to be watching us on the biggest stage possible."