"This year we're ready to finally move beyond the round of 32," Apollon Limassol LFC winger Christiana Solomou tells UEFA.com as they prepare to welcome ASD Torres CF.
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Apollon Limassol LFC winger Christiana Solomou is confident her team will outgun Italy's ASD Torres CF when the two sides meet in the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32 tie on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old was one of the key players in Apollon's qualifying round success last month, providing four assists as the Cypriot title holders stormed to the top of their group with convincing wins against KÍ Klaksvík, KS Ada Velipoje and WFC Kharkiv. Yet Solomou – declared by many pundits to be the island's star player of the future – says the real work begins now with the visit of Torres to Limassol.
"We're all aware of how much harder this game will be," the 19-year-old told UEFA.com. "But we are going for the win and, hopefully, with a good score to make our trip to Italy for the return leg easier."
This is the third successive season Apollon have managed to progress beyond the qualifying round. In the last two campaigns, their run was halted at the round of 32; this time, Solomou believes, they will make history for women's football on the Mediterranean island.
"We're in better shape this year than compared to the previous years," she said. "We've all been training hard ahead of these two games. We're improving by the year and I believe that this year we are ready to finally move beyond the round of 32."
Christoforou Christakis's side have been the dominant force in the Cypriot first division in the past five years and showed their potency in front of goal in Europe this season, registering a remarkable 31 goals without reply in their three games during qualifying.
"I believe our strength is in our attack," said Cypriot international Solomou, who saw Romanian team-mate Laura Rus strike nine times. "We scored a lot of goals in the previous qualifying round and we have a quality striker in Lala [Rus]. I hope we can carry on our goalscoring form when we play Torres and move into the round of 16 for the first time in our history."
Solomou is optimistic that a good run in Europe will make even more people take notice of their club and give a further shot in the arm to women's football on the island. "Every year, more and more people accept women's football in Cyprus. People here are finally coming to terms with the fact that women, too, can play football and our performances in Europe show that."