Hope Powell says Albion are fitter than ever.

And that can only help them in league and cup.

Powell will make changes today as Albion go to Charlton Athletic in the Continental Cup (2pm).

Where she will want no changes, however, is to the performance levels which saw them draw with Chelsea in the Barclays FA WSL – and come close to beating them.

Albion played some good stuff against last season’s Champions League semi-finalists and were disciplined throughout.

What also caught the eye was their level of fitness, working for long periods without the ball in temperatures in the low to mid 20s.

This is Albion’s second season as a fully professional outfit and Powell can see the improvement.

She told The Argus: “It was hard work but I think pre-season really helped us. The girls have worked really hard.

“It’s the second season as full-time pros and they know what the expectations are. They can manage themselves a bit better.

“They are used to it, which is great, but they have also done really well in pre-season which helped them with that result.”

Albion were strong for an hour at home to Chelsea last season, then hit the post – and ended up losing 4-0.

Asked whether the result this time showed how much Albion had improved, Powell said: “If we had lost, I would have still said we had progressed.

“Look at their team. Look at our team. We have progressed.

“We stood up to the pressure, stood up to the intensity “I think, physically, we are in a different place. I have got to be pleased.”

Having had a penalty saved in the opener at Bristol City, then conceded to Chelsea in added time, it is not inconceivable that the Seagulls could have had six points from two games Instead they have two but the signs are good.

Now comes a change of emphasis with Albion set to start as favourites away to Championship outfit Charlton in the Conti Cup group stage. Powell said belief should not be a problem.

The Albion boss added: “Confidence is high. They know they defend well against the best and score against the best.

“Everybody wants to play their part and it is important to give players minutes where we can.

“This says nothing about the Conti Cup, that we don’t want to do well in it.

“We want to do well in every game we play but it is a really good opportunity to play players who haven’t had many minutes. There will be quite a few changes.”

As well as a chance to put points on the board, the match can also play a part towards the league season.

Emily Simpkins is among those expected to start as players are given game time or a rest as required.

That is all part of building up to the trip to Arsenal a week today.

Powell said: “It is really good opportunity to test ourselves in different teams, different formations.

“And, more importantly, give everybody the opportunity to play and contribute to what we are trying to achieve this season.

“We want to play decent football, we want to do well in every game and we want to remain in this league.”

Lewes are also in Conti Cup action as they host Crystal Palace today (2pm).

The two sides shared a 1-1 draw recently.

Rooks are in good heart after last week’s late win at Coventry.

Boss Fran Alonso said: “The girls really deserved it, they worked very well and very hard and credit to them because at half-time they were disappointed.”