Arsenal LFC travel to Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 on Thursday exactly a year on from a dramatic tie at this stage between the teams.
On that occasion Arsenal lost 2-0 in Spain but in the home return, despite being reduced to ten players, won 4-1 with a last-gasp goal, setting up a fine run of form in 2011 that took them to the semi-finals as well as the English treble. Manager Laura Harvey credits last season's encounter for their success this year and spoke to UEFA.com about the rematch.
UEFA.com: Last year you lost 2-0 having not played many competitive matches before the game; are you in a stronger position this time?
Laura Harvey: Yes, I think so. I mentioned it last year that we, the players, took Madrid a little bit lightly really in the first leg. And we got punished. Rightly so because they were a good side. And everyone remembers the game here back at Borehamwood where we managed to turn that around. We have got to make sure we go to Madrid and put on a performance and hopefully a result that is worthy of the club that we are and the team that we are.
UEFA.com: Do you think what happened in the second leg against Vallecano was a key to the team's subsequent success?
Harvey: I definitely think that.
I am a true believer in fate. I just felt that that game changed our season ... you get the result you want, and every little bit of stress and everything else then came away from us and we pushed on from there. I've said before, in March when we played Everton in the FA Cup that game was such a pressured environment, and I just felt that the experiences we'd had against Vallecano actually helped us push on in that game – that was probably one of our best performances of the whole year, and still is now because of the pressure. But without a doubt I think last November was a turning point for us.
UEFA.com: But I guess that means Rayo will be extra determined to get their own back?
Harvey: They were gutted last year when we beat them in the last minute. And I can understand why. But we felt we didn't perform in the first leg, and over two legs we feel that we could beat anybody. We truly believe that and we have got to take that into the game.
UEFA.com Do you feel you are in a strong position this season to get even closer to, say, Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam?
Harvey: You hope so. It is tough, obviously. The players [Lyon] have got are fantastic. But yes, we've got a little bit more experienced now as a group; we know a little bit more about each other; some of the youngsters have been performing exceptionally well; the older ones are still going strong, which is great. We might need to look at a few areas to improve, but that is what we need to try and do if we want to be successful in this competition. Would we love to get that one step further? Of course we would!
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