SCOTLAND'S most capped outfield player, Jo Love, made a welcome return to football last Sunday. The Glasgow City midfielder had been out for 16 months following an ACL rupture in a league match against Rangers.

It happened in the 17th minute following a challenge on Kirsten Reilly (now with Crystal Palace) and, adding insult to serious injury, earned Love a yellow card. The digits were transposed against Aberdeen at Balmoral Stadium, with the midfielder making her return off the bench after 71 minutes.

Love, who won the first of her 189 caps against Canada in 2002, was back in the stand for Wednesday night's 3-0 win over Motherwell. Both the player and interim head coach Leanne Ross appreciate the need for a carefully phased return after such a long lay-off.

Now 37, Love says retirement didn't cross her mind even as the normal ACL recovery time of nine months almost doubled. Instead, she says it reignited her passion for a sport she has graced for so long.

“I had quite a hard time at the start,” she pointed out. “Probably for the first seven months I couldn't walk properly.

“I'd been back to see the surgeon a couple of times and a number of physios. The idea was we just hung in there and waited for it to go away.

“After about eleven or twelve months I was able to run properly. The last four months it hasn't really been my knee – other parts of my body I haven't been using have been packing up on me.

“There's were days when I came in to training and thought I could make a step forward in how recovery was going, then all of a sudden I've made a step back. That would bring a tear to my eye sometimes, but all in all there hasn't been a long period when I've felt down.

“I was probably thinking about retirement even before I got injured. It would be completely wrong to say this has given me a new lease of life, but it has given me a new motivation.

“I realised how much I actually missed the games – not the training or being in the gym – just being in the games in that moment. To get a taste of that again was really nice, but slowly does it.

“I've been in teams that have played in the Euros and the quarter finals of the Champions League, but last Sunday is probably the most nervous I've ever been going into a game. I'm not scared of anything happening again – it's just a feeling you have every single week, then all of a sudden its gone for a very large chunk of time.”

THE SWPL game of the season so far will be played in front of the BBC Alba cameras at the Excelsior this afternoon. Celtic and Glasgow City are not just the league's two in-form teams, but the most entertaining in recent weeks also.

League leaders City have scored 48 goals, and conceded just two, in the ten games since Leanne Ross took interim charge. Nine were wins, with the other a 0-0 draw away to Rangers.

Celtic, too, have been very impressive, and no more so than when beating Rangers 3-0 at today's venue nine nights ago. They go into the game three points adrift of their opponents, but because of their superior goal difference will go top if they become the first side to beat City in the league this season.

The flip side of the coin – a City win – would put the former 14-in-a-row champions in a very strong position. They would be six points clear of Celtic and at least seven ahead of Rangers, who play Spartans at Ainslie Park.

Both City and Celtic look to have recruited really well in the January window. Ross has been particularly impressed with Swedish wing back Anna Oscarsson and South African midfielder Linda Motlhalo – the former adding physicality and the latter subtlety.

It's the same for Fran Alonso at Celtic. Striker Natasha Flint, who is on loan from Leicester City, made her mark in the win against Rangers and followed up with her first two goals for the club against Hamilton Accies in midweek.

American Hana Kerner has added power and pace to the right hand side of the midfield, while the more established Shen Menglu has caught the eye with recent performances on the left. The penultimate round of fixtures before the league splits into a top six and bottom six has provided a most intriguing game.