Steph Houghton says revenge is not on Manchester City’s mind when they take on Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Atletico face Houghton and her teammates in Manchester for the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday night having knocked City out in the previous round last year.
The tie will also see England international Toni Duggan return to the Academy Stadium for the first time in club colours having left City for Barcelona in 2017 before moving to Madrid in the summer.
Duggan was a runner-up in the competition last year but Houghton is yet to feature in a final having reached the last-four on two occasions, losing to reigning champions Lyon in both.
Now the England and City captain is refusing to get sucked into a rivalry as she spies an opportunity to lead her side to the latter stages once more.
"I don't think it's a case of getting revenge against Atletico, it's more for us as a team - we want to progress our season,” said the 31-year-old.
NICK CUSHING 💬 @DemiStokes is back in the squad. @StanwayGeorgia has trained this morning. She isn't available for Atletico but will be back for United. @ellsbells89 is close - we don’t want to take a gamble.@lauracoombs91 and @klbardsley aren't ready.
🔵 #ManCity #UWCL pic.twitter.com/LzKRmt9qDx
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 15, 2019
"We know that our performance over the two legs [against Atletico] last season was not good enough.
"We fully respect them - they're a very good team - and we have to make sure that come Wednesday, we're defensively organised and that when chances come, we take them.”
It won’t just be Houghton that recognises Duggan when she touches back down in the northwest either as Demi Stokes, Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott have all played with the 28-year-old for club and country.
But there is one of Duggan’s former teammates, and Nick Cushing’s current crop, in particular that Houghton has picked out as a potential world-beater ahead of the tie; Keira Walsh.
Still only 22, Walsh has played more than 100 games in sky blue since making her debut in 2014 and can be as good as she wanted to be according her skipper.
"She's already shown herself to be one of the best midfielders in the country at this level, with the way she dictates the game, and her passing ability is second to none,” said Houghton.
"To have her in front of us makes our job easier, she always wants the ball and hopefully, she will be at this club for a number of years.
"Plus, I feel coming so close to winning the league last year built character and mentality. It's all about looking forward, focusing on who we have now and what we can do."
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 14, 2019
Cushing’s team of stars beat Swiss side Lugano 11-1 on aggregate in the last round and have started their chase of the WSL crown in perfect form taking four wins on the spin without conceding a goal.
"We're in a good place and we couldn't have asked for a better start in terms of results,” she added.
"We still feel we have a lot more to give and to have had the clean sheets and wins we've had, we should be very proud of ourselves.
"We pride ourselves on making sure there's a zero against the opponents' name. That's the basis of who we are as a team.
"We have very good attacking players but ultimately, for us defenders and the way we're structured, we have to make sure we keep as many clean sheets as we can.”