On the surface things look good for holders 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam as they begin the defence of their UEFA Women's Champions title at Åland United on Wednesday.
Potsdam visit Finland for the first leg of their round of 32 tie on top of the Frauen-Bundesliga, two points clear of fellow European contenders FCR 2001 Duisburg.
Although the champions' perfect start ended with a 2-1 defeat at VfL Wolfsburg in their fifth game, they bounced back on Saturday by beating SC 07 Bad Neuenahr 1-0 through Anja Mittag's late goal.
"We didn't deserve to win," was coach coach Bernd Schröder's take on an unconvincing performance. "We could have won 5-1 at Wolfsburg, but squandered our opportunities and made terrible individual mistakes in defence. We won today with help from God. We would have had no complaint if we had lost 2-0 or even 3-0."
The league table shows where Potsdam are struggling. Last season the key to their success was a division-leading 84 goals in 22 games; they have managed just 13 in six matches so far this term while rivals Duisburg and 1. FFC Frankfurt are already past 20 goals after 5-0 weekend wins.
There is an explanation. Schröder said: "Out of a squad of 24 players, I am currently missing eight. We cannot rely on help from our reserves as they themselves are experiencing problems with the number of available players. I am really missing Tabea Kemme at the moment."
Schröder has other concerns, too. "We are not mentally right," the 68-year-old continued. "If things are not working out, too many players are troubled within themselves. I expect more from experienced players like Anja Mittag, Viola Odebrecht or Jennifer Zietz."
So could Åland cause an upset on their European debut? Well, Bad Neuenahr coach Thomas Obliers pointed to his side's downfall on Saturday: "The game proved you cannot keep out Potsdam for 90 minutes."
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