By Joe Brewin
Laura Harvey has no doubt that her Arsenal Ladies side have progressed at a healthy rate over the last 12 months.
This time last season the Ladies were gearing up for a semi-final showdown against eventual European champions Lyon, a tie Harvey admits they lost comfortably over two legs.
But the manager believes things are different this time around as her team prepares for a first-leg clash against Frankfurt at Meadow Park on Sunday.
“We got to the semi-finals at this stage of the competition last year and felt that we gave it everything we had at the time,” Harvey told Arsenal.com. “We were probably beaten by a better team in Lyon but we feel that as a group we have come a long way over the last 12 months.
“We have players back from injury that we didn't have last year, a stronger squad with the experience they have now and we just feel like we are in a better place. Hopefully we can show that on Sunday.
“I think last year was a bit of a transitional period because we had to get used to playing big games so early in the season. I think we are better prepared this time around having played Everton in two big games. They are one of our biggest rivals in this country so we had to be at the top of our game.”
Arsenal edged out Gothenburg in the quarter-finals but Harvey knows Frankfurt are a different proposition entirely. All things considered, the Ladies manager is confident her team can match the German outfit when it matters.
“We know quite a bit about them,” she said. “Traditionally they have always been quite a strong team in Europe and German football is like that generally.
“I think they have probably been in a transitional period over the last 12-18 months but we know they are going to be a strong side. We have watched most of their games now in the Champions League and we are prepared for what they are going to bring.
“We know it will be tough but we believe that player for player we can match them and at times be better than them. We just have to show that.
"Gothenburg were a team who were also starting out in their season, whereas Frankfurt are coming to the end of theirs so are pretty much in full swing. That in itself brings a different challenge. It will be completely different on many fronts but we are prepared for what they are going to bring."
Once more the Ladies are faced with the traditionally less favourable task of playing away in the second leg, but Harvey insists it is a factor which can play into Arsenal’s hands.
“We love playing at Boreham Wood whether it be in the first leg or the second leg,” she said. “We have to make this game count, especially against a team like Frankfurt who traditionally don't do well away from home.
“They struggle when they are not at home in Frankfurt so we have to make sure that we make it really hard for them, hopefully take our chances and take a scoreline back there which we can hopefully hold onto.
“We know we are a hard team to break down and we have to go into the game full of confidence and show what we are about.”
Harvey has few injury concerns ahead of the game, with only Jennifer Beattie (back), and Faye White (knee) sidelined.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 12 Apr 2012