By Chris Harris
They have reached the Semi Finals twice and the Quarter Finals twice - now Jayne Ludlow believes Arsenal Ladies are equipped to go all the way in the UEFA Women's Cup.
Vic Akers' side advanced to the knockout stages for the fifth time after three wins out of three in Russia last week. Sunday's victory over Danish side Brøndby saw Arsenal avenge last year's defeat at the same stage and secure top spot in their qualifying group, ensuring a favourable last-eight draw.
The English 'double' winners were paired with Frankfurt last season after finishing second in their group and would have faced another highly-rated German side - Potsdam - if Brøndby had prevailed at the weekend. Instead, Ludlow anticipates a simpler task against Icelandic champions Breidablik.
"We have definitely got an easier draw this time which shows how important it was to finish top of our group," she told Arsenal.com.
"We are very pleased We got three wins and you can't ask for any more than that. We had some good performances and obviously to lay to rest the ghost of Brøndby - who beat us last year - was great. We had a few injuries when we met them before and ended up facing Frankfurt in the Quarter Finals.
"Now we have Breidablik. I don't know much about them but [Arsenal striker] Julie Fleeting played for a team in Iceland during the summer so hopefully we can get some information from her. They are not going to be as strong as Frankfurt though.
"I think all the girls are confident that we can make up for last year. We were disappointed with our performance in the away leg against Frankfurt but this time I think we are definitely equipped to go all the way.
Last season's 'double' triumph cemented Arsenal's reputation as the dominant force in the English women's game. A tally of 23 goals in their opening three games this term has extended the Ladies' unbeaten league run to 51 games and they are firm favourites to claim a sixth title in seven seasons.
Europe is a different matter. Fortuna Hjorring (2003), Djurgarden/Alvsjo (2005) and Frankfurt (2006) have thwarted Arsenal in their last three continental campaigns but Akers has strength in depth at his disposal after drafting in Rachel Yankey, Karen Carney and Katie Chapman during the summer.
"We have a good team and we also have a good squad so there are plenty of options on the bench if we do suffer injuries, as we did last season," agreed Ludlow, who has been deputising for injured captain Faye White.
"If you were picking a favourite for the UEFA Cup you'd have to choose one of the German teams - Frankfurt or Potsdam. There is not much to choose between them when they meet but we will hopefully make up for last year's defeat against Frankfurt if we can get to the Final.
"We also have more scope to focus on Europe because the league results have gone our way so far, we've been winning and Everton and Charlton have dropped some points. We can't afford to be complacent in the league but the players are really looking forward to the UEFA Cup this season, we think this could be our year."
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