By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger is not the only Arsenal manager with designs on the Champions League this season.
Twenty-four hours after the men’s side beat Olympiacos to seize control of their group, Arsenal Ladies manager Tony Gervaise is hoping to take his first step on the road to Madrid.
The UEFA Women’s Champions League Final will be contested 24 hours before the men’s showpiece in Spain next May but Gervaise and his team will start their campaign tonight in the rather more austere surroundings of Salonika.
Gervaise has the unenviable task of succeeding Vic Akers as manager but, despite losing key players to the United States professional league this year, the new man in charge believes Arsenal have what it takes to emulate their European triumph of 2007.
“That’s the goal, that’s the dream, to go and win the tournament,” Gervaise told Arsenal.com. “That was a unique quadruple and we will try our hardest to make sure history repeats itself.
“Of course it’s harder now because you can’t lose players like Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Karen Carney to America - as well as Julie Fleeting, who is not back yet after having her baby - without it affecting you.
“But the players have responded and don’t forget, they still won a domestic treble last season. These players have stepped up to the mark and we have added to the squad since then with the likes of Jennifer Beattie from Celtic. We have strength in depth, we have competition throughout the team and that will help us maintain our challenge.”
Beattie is likely to miss tonight’s first leg against PAOK through illness while Gilly Flaherty is a doubt after turning her ankle during Sunday’s Premier League opener at Birmingham. But Katie Chapman, Faye White and Laura Bassett – just back from the European Championships with England - should play a part.
Arsenal go into their two-legged tie with PAOK as firm favourites to advance to the last 16 but Gervaise will not be taking the Greek champions lightly.
“We don’t know a lot about them,” he admitted. “They have been in existence for about eight years and have a bit of history. In the last five years they have won four championships and they have 11 international players – most of them Greek internationals plus a Cypriot and a Serbian too.
"They will be a formidable challenge; it is not an easy draw.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 30 Sep 2009