Caitlin Foord believes our Champions League clash with Olympique Lyonnais will be “the biggest challenge we’ve faced yet”.
Our perfect start to the Women's Super League season, with three wins out of three, have us trailing league leaders Manchester United purely on goal difference. Yet Lyon pose a different threat entirely. The reigning European champions have been at the vanguard of women’s football over the past decade, but they are currently missing some key players like Ada Hegerberg and Cat Macario due to injury.
Foord, however, is wary of underestimating our French opponents: “Their trophy cabinet shows what they’ve done over the years. Regardless of injuries, they have a very strong squad. It’s going to be a good challenge for us and I’m excited to play against them. Obviously, we have a team full of world-class players as well, so I think it’s going to be a really good match.”
“For us, it will be the biggest challenge we’ve faced yet," she continued. "So if we can get a win and a good performance, it will be massive for us moving forward.”
Facing the toughest opponents in the competition in our first group game may well prove to be a blessing in disguise. "Every game in the Champions League is going to be tough," Foord said.
"Obviously, Lyon have won the Champions League before so they know what it’s all about. I think the earlier for us, the better. We want to continue our form throughout the league and that’s what we’ve been doing, so to have a challenge against Lyon and if it’s a good performance, that’s huge for us and we'll keep building to where we want to go."
Our Gunners reached the quarter-final stage of last year's competition and narrowly lost out to Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg across two legs. Prior to the knockouts, we suffered an 8-1 defeat to Barcelona on aggregate during the group stage and Foord admitted that our side "had a lot of learnings from those games."
"We've looked a lot at those games heading into the next big games, and I think it purely comes down to us. I think we have to be up for the challenge and we have to be ready for these games. I think because of those previous games we’ve had, I think we’ve obviously seen that now and we don’t want that to happen again and improve on where we went wrong in those games. As I said, this game tomorrow will be a big challenge for us to see how far we’ve come."
Our Aussie forward, who has already looked electric up front this season, has also maintained her great form on international duty, scoring three goals in their latest friendlies against Denmark and South Africa.
Foord, alongside compatriots Steph Catley and Lydia Williams, joined the Australian squad for the Asian Cup earlier this year, and despite the side being knocked out in January, the trio were permitted a trip home for a late Christmas break.
This extra time spent with her family was an essential reset for Foord and upon returning to London Colney, she's been in the form of her life: “When I got to go home, it was a big refresher for me, mentally and physically. Being at home and being around family re-energised me and had me excited to come back and play.
“I just wanted to do whatever I can for the team and off the back of the Asian Cup, I was excited to be back with Arsenal," she added. "I wanted to contribute in every way I could. I felt like I’ve started doing that and I want to keep doing that and keep pushing the team forward, as well as them obviously pushing me as well.”
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