'The level is much higher here', says Julie Blakstad as she reflects on her first year at Manchester City | The Sun

JULIE BLAKSTAD believes there may be a silver-lining to Manchester City’s quarter-final exit from the FA Cup. 

It leaves Gareth Taylor’s side free to focus solely on overtaking their rivals in a four-way fight for this season's title. 

A home win for the Citizens against Chelsea today would be a significant step in their bid to claim the WSL crown for the first time under Taylor.  

It would see them go level on points with Marc Skinner’s Man United side and one ahead of the Blues who have a game in hand.

Blakstad, 21, told SunSport: “There are both positives and negatives to going out of the FA Cup.

"Now we can put all our attention into the league. We would have preferred to advance in the competition.

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"However with things going the way they did, we can fully focus on the league and it's going to be a really tight race.

“There are some tough games coming up.

"It's probably good for us to get more training time in between league fixtures and we can really focus on those seven (WSL) games we have left.”

City’s league cup-winning and FA Cup final exploits last year are among Blakstad’s favourite memories of her first year at the club.  

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The midfielder, who is amongNorway’s rising stars, sealed a January switch from seven-time Norwegian top-tier champions Rosenborg. 

Since then, she helped the Academy Stadium giants to a memorable Conti Cup win last March.

Back then, they beat  Chelsea 3-1 at Plough Lane with Blackstad making a second half substitute appearance.

She also featured in last term’s FA Cup final where Taylor’s side fell to a 3-2 loss to Emma Hayes’ Blues after taking the battle for the trophy to extra time. 

Blakstad added: “When we won the Conti Cup final, that was for me a big achievement and quite early after I came to the club. 

“It was a really big thing to play in the FA Cup final even though we lost, 

“Having a crowd of almost 50,000 people watching the game and with that atmosphere was a big moment 

Before her WSL move, Blakstad who grew up in a village located 59 miles from Norway’s capital Oslo, spent two years at Rosenborg. 

The club, founded in 1917, competes in the country’s top football league known as the Toppserien. 

And Blakstad sees the contrast in pace and physicality in Norway's top tier andthe WSL as one of the biggest differences between the divisions. 

The City ace, named in Uefa’s ‘ten players to watch list’ in 2021, adds “The level is much higher here and that was what I expected. 

“It's a good thing when you move out that you actually take a step forward. 

“The biggest difference is how quick the players are both in the legs but also in their heads in terms of their play. 

“The game is much quicker, and more physical as well on the pitch.”

Blakstad admits swapping Norway for life in England’s third most populated city has been an interesting experience. 

The midfield ace said: “When I first came here, everyone was so helpful, and it was nice settling in. 

“But I would say it's a difference for me living in a big city like Manchester when I'm used to going out hiking and out in the forest.”

Today City hope to pick up their first win against Chelsea in the league for the first time since May 2017. 

The game could see Blakstad take to the field against national team-mate Guro Reiten who has registered four goals and nine assists in 13 WSL appearances this term. 

Blakstad said: “She has been incredible both for her club and also our national team. 

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“For Norway it's important when we go into the World Cup that we have players doing really well at a club like Chelsea.

"Guro is going to be important for us this summer.” 

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