Never in their eight previous European campaigns have Arsenal LFC not reached at least the quarter-finals but if they fail to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid on Thursday that will be the reality for the 2007 UEFA Women's Cup winners.
Arsenal lost the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 tie in Spain last week, leaving them with the task of replicating what they did in the 2004/05 quarter-finals against Italy's Torres, when they initially went down 2-0 but won the return 4-1 at Meadow Park. Manager Laura Harvey is determined they can repeat that trick.
"I told the players they had a reality check," Harvey told UEFA.com. "They realised they didn't perform on Thursday and although we still had chances to score, we didn't create a lot.
Usually in an Arsenal team even if we concede two goals you are confident we'd score at least one. I can't remember the last game we didn't score in and that says something.
"We've collectively got back together and had a couple of training sessions to try and solve the problems we had, and go into Thursday's game confident we can reverse the result."
Whereas Rayo have already played eight league games this season, beating UD Las Palmas 3-0 at the weekend, Arsenal have not had a domestic game since May due to the launch of the new FA Women's Super League next year. "I don't want to use it as an excuse as we prepared as well as we possibly can without having games," Harvey said. "But for the players it was a bit of a culture shock. In November they'd usually be well into the season."
Another blow last week was the withdrawal of captain Faye White due to illness. "It happened so late before we travelled, on the morning," Harvey explained "It will be great to have her back for her experience and her knowledge." However, Harvey was able to use England midfielder Katie Chapman for the first time since her return to the Gunners from the United States. "Someone of her class and ability, you miss it when you don't have it," the manager added.
They will also have their fans behind them in Borehamwood, though Harvey is concerned about how Arsenal coped with the crowd at ŽFK Mašinac in the last 32 and then Vallecano. "In both our away ties this season the crowd played a massive part in my opinion – in Serbia it was a real hostile environment. Spain was similar, they really backed their team," Harvey said.
"That's something we're not used to in England. When we do get a crowd it's not what you'd call a normal football crowd with chanting and booing and cheering; they are very quiet and only really get excited when there are goals. In Spain it was really loud and enclosed, around 5,000. We just don't have that in England, but when we're back at Borehamwood we feel comfortable and confident."
Admission for Arsenal's game at 13.00 UK time on Thursday is £3 for adults and £1.50 for concessions.
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