By Chris Harris
Arsenal Ladies may be regulars on the European scene but Vic Akers admits that tonight's Uefa Cup opener at Stade Honneur is a "step into the unknown".
The 2007 winners have never faced FC Zürich Frauen - their first opponents in this season's qualifying group - and the Arsenal manager is predicting a close encounter.
"We've never played Zurich before so we’re stepping slightly into the unknown tonight, as are they," said Akers. "We’ve played a Swiss side before, however, it was a very equal game and I’ll be expecting the same tonight.
"Zurich are a team, much like Arsenal Ladies, who are fully supported by their Club. Their achievements are recognised by the Club, we’ve seen their Club branded bus over here in Lyon so the standard and respect is high. We’ve prepared ourselves properly and professionally as usual and I’m sure tonight will be tough."
Akers has a squad of 17 at his disposal in France and he will need that strength in depth with a hectic run of three games in five days. Austrian champions SV Neulengbach are next up before Arsenal lock horns with the team which eliminated them last season - group hosts Olympique Lyonnais.
Yvonne Tracy will not feature tonight after a freak injury before Sunday's League Cup win against Everton. The full-back clashed with a team-mate while limbering up for the game and suffered severe bruising to her right eye.
Rachel Yankey joins Tracy on the sidelines tonight. The England winger returned from international duty with a knee injury and needs more time to recover. However, club captain Faye White is fit after coming through an hour for the Reserves at the weekend.
Despite those minor problems, Akers is upbeat. "I took the squad out for some light exercise this morning and I can tell you that the girls look good, I’ve got a strong bunch to pick from," he said.
"We’ve got a few injuries which will guide the selection for tonight’s match, but most of those will be gone before the next match on Saturday."
The other game in Arsenal's group, between Lyon and Neulengbach, also kicks off at 6pm (UK time) tonight.
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