Manchester City versus Everton. The Toni Duggan/Hayley Raso/Chloe Kelly/Sandy MacIver/Poppy Pattinson/Alex Greenwood/Izzy Christiansen derby. Take your pick.
The pair meet for an FA Cup and WSL double header over the next four days, with Izzy Christiansen one of numerous players set for a reunion with their former side.
The midfielder remains a firm fan favourite at the Academy Stadium. She spent four years with City and scooped the PFA Player of the Year award as the club won their maiden WSL title in 2016. Christiansen was at the Etihad for Champions League co-commentary duty against Sporting, and was greeted by City supporters singing her name.
“It’s nice to hear that,” Christiansen told 90min. “I had a very good spell of my career there, but I’m in an Everton shirt now; football moves, people change, people move on. I’m really keen to drive Everton forward and make sure we’re now competing with the likes of Manchester City.
“Those initial moments of playing against your old club are out of the window for me. So no weird feelings, just a case of another top team that we’re looking to derail.”
Everton have previous when it comes to derailing top teams in FA Cup quarter finals, beating Chelsea at this stage of the 2019/20 competition en route to the final. Despite their underdog status, the Toffees turned in a mammoth performance at Wembley to take Manchester City to extra time, but ultimately succumbed to a 3-1 loss.
The FA Cup has cherished memories for Christiansen. She lifted the trophy with Birmingham while still a student – her university course mates journeying to Ashton Gate to cheer her on in the final – and was on the scoresheet in 2017 as City beat Birmingham at Wembley (another rendition of the Izzy Christiansen derby). She remains an FA Cup romantic.
“It means everything to me, I think it’s really magic. My friends, my family say I always say ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ and they take the Mickey out of me but I’ll keep saying it because I think it is a magic competition.
“Playing at Wembley is just… when we did that at Everton that was one of the proudest days of my career, despite not winning. The worst feeling ever as a sports person is to come off the pitch and think ‘I should have done that, I could have done that’ but there were no feelings like that after the game, it was just pure pride and passion to wear an Everton shirt. There’s real drive in the camp to get back into Wembley.”
Christiansen joined Everton’s Centre of Excellence as a 14-year-old thanks to the appeal of revered coach Mo Marley, before re-signing for the club in January 2020. The Toffees’ run to the cup final and succession of ambitious transfer windows teased a tilt at Europe this season, but the 2021/22 campaign hasn’t panned out as hoped.
“This season’s been different as we’re not really on course to achieve what we want to achieve, which is to be challenging for the third Champions League spot. But we understand that processes have changed and we’ve had to adapt. We’ve had a lot of chopping and changing – systems, managers – which are things that haven’t really been in our court if you like. But we’ve been really resilient and we’re looking forward to finishing the season strongly.”
Everton conclude the week with a trip to Manchester United – another homecoming for Christiansen, who is a product of United’s Centre of Excellence. The women’s team were an afterthought during her time at the club and were disbanded in 2005. Seventeen years on, Everton’s clash with United takes place at Old Trafford; a United Women’s match in front of fans at the Theatre of Dreams for the very first time.
“It’s a massive credit to the club for investing in the women’s team, there was a time when they weren’t doing so when I was there so really kind of brief – I say brief, there was quite a large spell of zero investment from Manchester United which is really poor. But they’ve rectified that and built a very, very strong machine of a team.
“I was thinking about it today when I was driving into training and had to remind myself we’ve got two games before then. I was thinking about how it’s going to feel turning up to the stadium on the team bus. Those are the moments you’ve got to enjoy and lap up.
“We’ve got players who are relishing that opportunity and come Thursday we can start looking forward to that experience and making sure that we don’t just turn up and make up the numbers, we’re there to win the game.”