By Nik Brumsack
Arsenal Ladies have enjoyed another groundbreaking season.
Laura Harvey’s team have once again dominated the domestic game in 2012, becoming the first team to go a whole Women’s Super League campaign unbeaten as they marched to a ninth straight title - also winning the Continental Cup along the way.
But in spite of all the Gunners' goals and glory, it’s safe to say that Harvey and her players will not look back on the year with total satisfaction if they fail to reach the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League.
The Ladies travel to Germany to take on FFC Turbine Potsdam in the second leg of their last-16 clash on Wednesday knowing the scenario is simple enough. Avoid defeat and Arsenal will be among the last eight of Europe’s elite again.
Harvey’s team, chasing a first European trophy since winning the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2007, produced an accomplished display full of incisive and attacking football to win last week’s first leg at Meadow Park - and would be in a more comfortable position were it not for a combination of spurned opportunities and Yuki Ogimi’s late long-range stunner.
The 2-1 triumph added yet another landmark to a record-breaking term, for it was the first time Arsenal have ever beaten German opposition- an achievement which Harvey believes has increased her side’s belief of qualifying.
“I think it’s given them more belief in terms of seeing the tie through,” she told Arsenal.com.
“The reality is that over the last three seasons, Lyon have always been the team to beat. We’ve always thought that we can compete with any other team. Last year, when we played Frankfurt, we weren’t as confident as potentially we are this time around playing Potsdam. After the first leg, we’ve put ourselves in a good position to push on to the next round.
“Ultimately, we’ve proven in the last seven days that our big priority is to try and show that, on a European stage, we can compete. We’re halfway through doing that in this round, and we want to make sure we can see the job through.”
Despite only needing a draw to progress in Germany, Harvey, who will pick from a fully-fit squad, insists she will not adjust the attacking belief she instilled in her side before last week’s first leg.
“I think, sometimes, depending on your opposition, it can be worthwhile sitting and defending. Sometimes the best form of defence is attack. The way we played last week in terms of going forward really caused Potsdam a problem. It will be pretty much the same idea for this week.
“It would be great to finish 2012 on a massive high of beating such a strong side. To go into next season really positively and in another quarter-final of the Champions League would just round off a good year for us.”
Midfielder Kim Little echoed Harvey’s ambitions of qualifying for the next stage and adding to a stellar year that has seen her top the WSL scoring charts, represent Team GB at the London Olympics and fire Arsenal to cup glory with a blockbuster from 20 yards in October’s final against Birmingham.
The 22-year-old is not used to disappointment on the football field, but was forced to feel it when Scotland suffered last-minute heartbreak in their European Championship play-off loss against Spain last month.
Little is determined to avenge that defeat - and says the only way to do that is by getting past Potsdam.
“For me it was a gutting defeat [for Scotland],” she told Arsenal.com. “We went a goal up in extra time and we knew how close we were to qualifying. We thought we had the ability and passion to go through but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be this time. We’ll have to look to going one step better next time.
“I think we’re in a great position [ahead of the second leg]. It would have been nice not to concede on Thursday but apart from that, we played as well as we have all season.
“A lot of us have won a lot of trophies domestically but not the Champions League. It’s definitely an ambition for us to win it.
“After having such a great year, I don’t want to end it on a disappointment. Winning this Champions League game on Wednesday will make sure that the year ends on a positive. I don’t want to end it on two losses.”
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