Liverpool LFC make their European debut against Linköpings FC on Wednesday and Lucy Bronze explains how the club have got there and how they hope to do.
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Liverpool are not a club unfamiliar with European football – but a little bit of history will be made on Wednesday.
Having won their first English championship a year ago, Liverpool LFC make their UEFA Women's Champions League debut against Sweden's Linköpings FC at Widnes. In the midst of their domestic title defence, Liverpool nevertheless have ambitions in Europe as England defender Lucy Bronze – who played in this competition for her old team Everton LFC – explained to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: How much do you know about Linköping?
Lucy Bronze: I don't know individual players, like their statistics, but I've seen how well they have done as a team this year. They have beaten Rosengård, the Swedish champions with stars like Marta. So if they have beaten them, they must have a lot of quality.
It seems we are on quite a similar level. They are pushing for top spots, same as us, and they have got good players but not massive stars like Marta or Americans like Christen Press [that other Swedish clubs have had].
UEFA.com: What does it mean for Liverpool to be in this competition?
Bronze: It seems like it's come quite quickly. We've been waiting for a year, we qualified this time last year. It's finally come but at an awkward point of the league – it is hard to focus on something that happened last year, it's a bit confusing. Hopefully we can get through this round then it settles back down for us.
Last year [qualifying] was one of our big aims, to get into Europe. To win the league was a massive bonus. We have a similar goal this year, we are looking to qualify for Europe every year. The Champions League is the biggest competition in European club football.
UEFA.com: How far can you go?
Bronze: One round at a time! As well as English clubs have done on the European scene we can't measure ourselves against any of them, as we haven't played any European teams outside England to know where we stand. Obviously Arsenal made the quarter-final and Birmingham made the semi-final last year, so you want to aim for those kind of things. But we weren't seeded and got a harder draw than the likes of Bristol.
UEFA.com: Most of your squad have not played in Europe ...
Bronze: There are only a handful of players who have played in the Champions League but it is a good thing that some of the players haven't as they have a kind of fight – they want to play in it because they haven't before. They've got something to prove. And for the players who have, with Fara Williams and Tash Dowie, that was two or three years ago with Everton – that's a long time to wait and they are raring to go.
UEFA.com: There is plenty of general experience in the squad, though, with England's most-capped player Williams and Becky Easton?
Bronze: Becky's one of the players who have been overlooked a lot at Liverpool as she is at the end of her career and doesn't play for England any more but she does a really good job for us. What she does off the pitch is incredible too – she is someone everyone looks up to as she is the ultimate professional. What's she's doing at her age, she gives a lead to some of our kids.
With Fara, it is her experience and football knowledge. A lot of the kids look to her to get an understanding of the game and she has that in abundance. She has the role she wants, the manager lets Fara do what she's best at. Before in England she has been playing out of position, a bit higher and it doesn't suit her. She wants someone to do the running for her and at Liverpool she has that role, she can dictate the play.
UEFA.com: When Liverpool rebuilt last year they started training five days a week – how has that helped you?
Bronze: Personally it's pushed me on. Coming into Liverpool, I've now started playing and starting for England, I'm a lot fitter and a lot sharper. I have a lot more quality on the ball as I am getting to kick the ball every day. As a team it has made us a lot fitter – we can fight with teams until the very end, no matter what team we are playing, as we have that fitness. That showed last year with all the goals we scored. This year we have not done that because of all our injury problems, we've never really had a settled XI for any game really.