Pre-Match Report

WCL: Arsenal Ladies v Linkopings - Preview

By Chris Harris

Lose the first leg 2-0. Fight back to lead 3-2 on aggregate. Concede a seemingly fatal away goal. Snatch a last-minute winner to win 4-3.

Arsenal Ladies' last Champions League tie, against Rayo Vallecano four months ago, was comic book stuff. And Laura Harvey wants no more of it.

That's not to say the manager won't take any win - however dramatic - if it keeps Arsenal's European dream alive but she believes her team almost left themselves with too much to do against the Spanish champions after a wretched first leg in Madrid.

A similarly sloppy start will not be tolerated when Swedish side Linkopings travel to Meadow Park for Thursday's Quarter-Final first leg. Harvey knows exactly what she wants and she believes the lessons learned from November's rollercoaster ride will help her get it.

"I think the ideal would be not to concede and try and score at least two. If you do concede you've got to get a two-goal margin at least," she told

"But in the last round of the Champions League we learned a lot about ourselves and we experienced a lot during seven days between going away to Madrid and losing to coming back and turning that around in a massively dramatic style like we did.

"If you could write the script for a film you wouldn't have been able to write it better than that. It was seven days of a good learning curve for the players, to find out what characters you've got, because when the chips are down you see whether they have strength or whether they will back away.

"I can say that none of them backed away, they all stepped up to it on the day and we got the result we needed. Since then we have had a break to think on that and we've had a really productive January and February and I think that showed when we beat Everton at the weekend."

That win in the FA Women's Cup - extra significant because this year's finalists will enter next season's Women's Champions League - was only Arsenal's fifth competitive match since last May. The new Women's Super League is responsible for that - it kicks off in April and runs until September - and Harvey admits it's been a difficult time to be a football manager.

"Yes, it has been tough over the break because we had a mini-season in October-November, then a break and a pre-season building up to now," she said. "All the players want to do is play and win as many matches as possible, the bigger the better, and there isn't anything bigger than the Champions League so we're looking forward to it."

The draw has been relatively kind to Arsenal. Umea are the traditional powerhouse in Swedish women's football - no team can match their five European final appearances, one of which was lost to Arsenal in 2007 - and Linkopings are very much the new kid on the Champions League block. Not that Harvey will be taking them lightly - she's even taken to the internet for her pre-match research.

"It's hard to scout them because they're in a summer season too so they've had no games," she explained. "I must have watched over 100 YouTube videos of them plus gained some information from contacts that I've got. But it has been tough, tougher than it was to see Rayo Vallecano. I think they [Linkopings] fell on their feet a bit because they saw us at the weekend.

"What I do know is that they finished third in their league last year but they've added to their squad since then, like we have. They've got some senior Swedish internationals in their group, some Finnish, an Australian international. One thing they haven't got that we have is experience in the Champions League at this later stage, but they will definitely be a challenge. We are prepared for them."

Those preparations will not include Jayne Ludlow, troubled by an Achilles injury, or Gilly Flaherty, who serves a ban for her sending off in the closing stages of that dramatic second leg with Rayo Vallecano. When Harvey talks about lessons learned, Flaherty is a case in point.

"Gilly is suspended and that's a blow for us," said the manager. "She's young and she'll learn from that, I hope she'll never do that again. She's a big loss to the team but for her it's a big learning curve because she's missing out on big games."

If Flaherty's team-mates can learn lessons of their own from November's events, a place in the Champions League Semi-Finals should be theirs.

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