Umeå IK begin their campaign on Wednesday with the likes of Marta and Hanna Ljungburg no longer in their ranks but winger Johanna Rasmussen is still predicting success for the two-time European champions.
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Last season was an unusual one in the UEFA Women's Cup; for only the second time in their seven entries, Umeå IK did not make the final. Winger Johanna Rasmussen believes they can make amends in the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Winners of the previous UEFA competition in 2002/03 and 2003/04, and runners-up on three other occasions, Umeå were knocked out in the semi-finals last season by Russia's Zvezda-2005. At the time the Swedish side were still dealing with the departure of talismanic striker Marta, and for the second year running they are being pushed hard for the Damallsvenskan title by Linköpings FC. Both are in the UEFA Women's Champions League, with Umeå's campaign starting at Zhilstroy-1 Kharkov on Wednesday in the first leg of the round of 32.
'Lot of fun'
Rasmussen, who joined Umeå last year, was a livewire presence for Denmark at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ despite her nation's group stage exit in Finland but is hopeful for more success at club level. "I'm pretty confident," she told uefa.com. "It's always cool to play in international games and against teams you don't play every day, but we also have the league we need to fight for. There's a lot of fun coming up."
In the last year Umeå have lost not just Marta, but captain Frida Östberg – also to the new American professional league – and only last month stalwart striker Hanna Ljungberg to injury-enforced retirement. "I feel sorry for her," Rasmussen said. "She loves football; she has her heart where it is supposed to be. It's really sad. She was a really important player to us. Hopefully she will still be around the team to cheer us on. She was a really great player."
However, with the likes of Swiss striker Ramona Bachmann, Swedish counterpart Madelaine Edlund, midfielder Lisa Dahlqvist and indeed the 26-year-old Rasmussen, Umeå still have a side capable of winning the new UEFA Women's Champions League. "I have great confidence in our team," Rasmussen said. "We have more young players. Everybody needs to work hard now. It's not just one player everybody is looking at, there's more responsibility on everyone."