Arsenal Ladies manager Shelley Kerr says her team will try and put on a show for their supporters in the second leg of their Champions League last-32 tie against Kazakh side Kairat.
The tie is virtually over after the Gunners’ emphatic 7-1 win in Kazakhstan last week, but Kerr says it is important that they remain professional in Thursday’s return game at Meadow Park.
“[We will have] a professional approach to the game and try and put on a spectacle, an attractive game plan for our spectators because that’s important for us. They’re a big part of the club and our supporters are fantastic so we want to try and play attractive football.”
The Ladies had three points deducted in the Women’s Super League for fielding an ineligible player against Liverpool and finished 3rd as a result, missing out on qualification for next season’s Champions League. They now have to win this season’s competition to qualify again in 2014, but Kerr is not feeling any extra pressure to succeed.
“I don’t see it as a pressure,” she said. “We’ve been in the Champions League for the last 10 years and you can’t develop as a team unless you play the best and that’s where you need to be all the time. You need to be in a challenging environment to become better.”
With the domestic season over, it means Arsenal’s focus is solely on the Champions League, a situation that Kerr describes as being “like the glass is half empty or the glass is half full.”
“I’m really not sure if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage,” she admitted. “We came from the [away] leg in Kazakhstan and it’s been good for us not to have a game at the weekend because we’ve had time to recover and some of the other teams competing in the Champions League have not got that.”
With progression to the last-16 all but secured, Kerr is keen for the Gunners to continue their momentum, with the club unbeaten in all competitions since the first game of the season.
“It’s more important because we don’t have any domestic games now,” she explained. “If we had domestic games it [would] perhaps give you an opportunity to rest some players but we want to keep the continuity and form and we want to keep the players playing together [to] give them even more confidence.”
The draw for the last-16 has thrown up a potentially interesting scenario. The Ladies could face Scottish champions Glasgow City if both sides get through – City drew 2-2 with Standard Liege in Belgium in their first leg. Kerr, though, is not looking that far ahead.
“I think it’s difficult to talk about it right now because by all accounts because they’ve got a tough game. Everyone else will be talking about it because it’s really Scotland versus England but I think we’ll be able to talk more about it if that becomes a reality.
“Until such time we have to focus on the game that’s up and coming.”
Arsenal Ladies v Kairat kicks off at 2pm at Meadow Park on Thursday. Tickets are priced at £5 adults and £2.50 concessions and can be bought at the gate.