Barcelona prestige excites Bristol Academy

"It's a great opportunity for us," said Bristol Academy WFC boss Dave Edmondson, with a round of 16 meeting with FC Barcelona giving the Vixens a taste of glamour.

Bristol are limbering up for their first European last-16 tie
Bristol are limbering up for their first European last-16 tie ©The FA via Getty Images

Bristol Academy WFC are preparing for a UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 tie with FC Barcelona that manager Dave Edmondson believes will bring long-term benefits to the English club.

Having been knocked out in the last 32 on their debut three years ago, Academy cruised past Raheny United 6-1 on aggregate this time round to set up a trip to Barcelona on 8 November. The return is at Bristol City FC's Ashton Gate five days later. Edmondon, who took over at the start of the year when Mark Sampson was appointed England manager, is in no doubt about the profile of their opponents.

"The name Barcelona, it's huge," Edmondson told UEFA.com. "But they're a good side as well, and they're a footballing team which will be great for us because that's how we try to play. I'm sure they will be a great couple of games and it's a great opportunity for us."

Striker Natalia was on target for Bristol in both legs against Raheny, and with Keka, Laura del Río and Judith Fernández – a summer arrival from FC Barcelona – is one of four Spaniards in the Vixens squad. "We've obviously got a bit of a Spanish contingent here," added Edmondson.

"That will add a bit of spice to it. Barcelona, as a club and as a city, it drips of football, and it carries a massive sway there so it's a great place to go and play. But we will have a look at what they have done in their last few games and we'll make a decision about how we are going to play closer to the time."

Manchester-born Edmondson arrived in February via spells in New Zealand and Australia, but recognises how important the fixture is in terms of his own career. "Is it one of the biggest fixtures I've been involved in as a manager? Maybe.

"I've been to the [FIFA Women's] U-17 World Cup with New Zealand [in 2010] and a W-League Grand Final in Australia last year, but it will definitely be up there. Hopefully, the quarter-finals will be next one after that. The more the club can be involved in games like this, the better. It's where we want this club to be."

Academy celebrate their opening goal at Raheny
Academy celebrate their opening goal at Raheny©Sportsfile

Moving the European games to Ashton Gate is important, too, for the profile of Academy. "From the number of people already talking about Barcelona, not from the club, but from around the area, it is my expectation that we will have a lot more here for the match [than against Raheny]."

Bristol finished second bottom in this year's FA Women's Super League but Barcelona coach Xavi Llorens, whose team are just one point away from the lead in Spain, is not taken in by that. "It has no relevance, because a league is one competition – a competition played over 180 minutes is completely different.

"Some teams are better in cup competitions and others that are stronger over the course of a season. In this competition where you play for 180 minutes for the right to go through or go out. I think it's going to be very competitive. We have no doubt that this tie is going to be a tough one."

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