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Sunderland will be looking for a place in the semi finals of the Premier League Cup for the first time in their history when they make the long trip to play Portsmouth.
Rachel Furness is not likely to be amongst their line up as she is still recovering from injury but she told Women's Soccer Scene that they will not be taking their Southern Division opponents lightly. "The whole team is looking forward to the game," she said. "We are going to go into the game as favourites but you never know what could happen.
"We are going to have to make a long journey down to the South Coast, which is a bit of a disadvantage to us. We don't know too much about Portsmouth but we will go into the game as we would for any other - preparation will be as normal. The pressure is on us but if we are mentally prepared, we shall be ready for the challenge. As a team we have set high standards this season, and we want to keep those standards going."
Rachel, who has been capped 24 times by Northern Ireland, rejoined Sunderland this season after spells with Newcastle United and Icelandic side Grindavik. "When I returned to the club, I noticed that the whole team had come on leaps and bounds since I was with them before," she says. "A lot of hard work, commitment and determination has been put in by the girls to get where they are now and a trophy is what we are aiming for.
"Expectations were high at the start of the season but it took the girls a couple of games to really get into it. Since then, we have been doing well although in the last few games we haven't been at our best, but have got the results. That shows the sort of team we are, however good or bad we play, we can still get results."
However since her return, the 22-year-old has been forced to spend a frustrating spell on the sidelines. "I first picked up the injury in Iceland but carried on playing after a scan," she admits. "I was in pain after my first game for Sunderland and I discovered that I had bruised a bone in my knee. It may be a good thing for me that games have been called off recently as it has given me more time to recover. All being well I am hoping to be back in January.
"It has been very frustrating for me because I was excited about coming back and playing with the girls once again. I wanted to play so much and win my place in the team, but it is not going to be easy as we have a big squad with a lot of good players."
After losing their first match of the season, Sunderland have embarked on an eight match unbeaten run which has seen them open up a lead of four points at the top of the National Division. With a place in the semi finals of the League Cup at stake, there is a realistic chance that the Wearsiders could end the season with two trophies. "We have lost a few good players but others have taken their chance and stepped into the team," says Rachel. "When people heard that Jordan Nobbs was going to Arsenal, they would have thought it would have affected us, but Kelly McDougall is the one going forward and getting the goals from midfield. Since I've been out, Sarah McFadden - who is also a Northern Ireland international - has stepped in and done really well.
"The team hasn't changed massively, with some players having come through from the Centre of Excellence, and we are used to playing together and know each other well as individuals.
"In the past two years we have won promotion, reached the FA Cup Final and beaten the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. Now we want to keep up this progression by winning something and if we did, it would be a huge 'thank you' for all the people behind the scene who work so hard and do so much for the club, and particularly our manager Mick Mulhern. If we can win both trophies, it would show people what we can do in this area and that the North East is very strong."
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