We're back in European action this evening as we hope to book our place in the UEFA Women's Champions League group stage.
The final obstacle is a double-header with Ajax Vrouwen – the first of which kicks off at Meadow Park this evening at 7.30pm UK time. If we beat the Dutch side over two legs, it will guarantee Champions League football for our Gunners this season.
We have never met Ajax in a competitive match before. This home game will be followed by a trip to Amsterdam next week as we take on the Dutch side in the final qualifying leg on September 28.
We made a winning start to our season after overcoming Brighton & Hove Albion 4-0 on Friday evening and we will be looking to transfer this good form to European football, ahead of the North London Derby at the weekend.
Ajax's journey so far
Ajax also registered a 4-0 win in their opening match of the league season, as they beat Fortuna Sittard at home on Friday. Suzanne Bakker's side have finished second to FC Twente for the past three Eredivisie seasons.
The Dutch side made it to this stage of the UWCL qualifiers by defeating Kristianstads DFF and Eintracht Frankfurt. They will be aiming to return to the competition after a two-year break. In 2020/21, they were beaten by Bayern Munich in the Round of 32 and prior to that, their best showing was reaching the Round of 16 in 2018/19.
Our Champions League experience
We are still the only English club to have ever won the Women's Champions League title, which we did back in 2007 when it was still referred to as the UEFA Women’s Cup. Alex Scott scored the winning goal as we beat Swedish side, Umea, 1-0 on aggregate.
Last season, we made it to the competition's quarter-finals, after finishing second in our group behind Barcelona. Over two legs, we were beaten by German champions Wolfsburg 3-1 on aggregate, after Lotte Wubben-Moy heroically salvaged a draw in the 89th minute during our home game at Emirates Stadium.
Ajax's current squad
Victoria Pelova is the young attacking star of the Dutch side. The 23-year-old midfielder has attracted much transfer interest across Europe with her Ajax contract expiring next year.
Elsewhere, Netherlands team captain Sherida Spitse anchors their midfield and young striker Romée Leuchter spearheads their attack. Their first-team squad is entirely comprised of Dutch players.
Our team news
We had a fully fit squad for our WSL opener against Brighton on Friday. No injuries, other than Teyah Goldie's ongoing ACL recovery, have been reported in the interim.
If she plays this evening, this will be Lia Walti's 100th appearance for the Gunners. The Swiss midfielder joined us in 2018 from German side, Turbine Potsdam.
The match could also see Lina Hurtig's Champions League debut in an Arsenal shirt. Hurtig was key for Juventus' European campaigns in previous years and she impressed during her short cameo against Brighton on Friday evening.
UWCL Facts and stats
- Ever since the competition became known as the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2009/10, we have qualified seven times
- In every Champions League that we have qualified for, we have at least made it to the quarter-finals
- From 2010 to 2013, we made it to the semi-finals three seasons in a row
- Vivianne Miedema was the competition’s top scorer in 2019/20 with 10 goals
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