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Bristol City captain Carly Bryant is in an upbeat mood ahead of her side's tough opening match of the season against ambitious Birmingham City this Sunday. The Blues have been busily signing star names during the summer months, which have included England internationals Amanda Barr, Ellen Maggs and Rachel Yankey, but Carly laughs: "It's a good one! No problem with that - we hear they (Birmingham) have got at least three super strikers but big names don't worry me.
"The first three or four games are actually quite good, not having to play the likes of Arsenal, Fulham or Charlton early on should be a help for us."
City will be playing at the highest level for the first time this season after winning the Southern Division title. Each team they play against will be fielding internationals and star names, and this is just starting to sink in with the players. "It's going to be a totally different ball game," admits Carly. "But at the same time, it's more exciting really! Last season we were expected to win the league or go close, so there was a bit of pressure on us to do well as we so wanted to finish on top. Now, we've nothing to lose after going up.
"Having said that, we don't want to just survive and are aiming higher than that. A mid-table position would be a great achievement."
This summer has seen a huge amount of transfer activity amongst all of the major clubs, not just Birmingham. City themselves have got into the act with the notable signing of England international Rachel McArthur from Fulham and Carly is full of praise for their capture. "Watching Rachel in training, you can see she is one step ahead of the rest of us. That is the standard that we have to aim for."
As well as the big guns, City also face two local derbies against Bristol Rovers and both matches could go a long way towards deciding the two sides' destinies at the end of the season. City won the last meeting, 3-1 in last season's GFA Women's Cup Final. "The Rovers games are different from the rest as there is so much local attention," says Carly. "We don't have a great record against Rovers in recent years but we proved we can beat them last season and we're not scared of facing them any more."
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