Women's Champions League qualifiers: Cardiff Met must be 'pitch-wise' to progress

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Qualification is 'my all-time aspiration' - Harris

Cardiff Met Women will have to be "pitch-wise" in the Women's Champions League qualification, says Director of Women's Football Dr Kerry Harris.

The Archers are drawn against Slovenian champions Pomurje Beltinci, Scottish Premier League runners-up Hibernian and Georgian champions FC Nike Tbilisi.

Met would become the first Welsh team to reach Round of 32 if they qualify.

"Teams know how to play the rules so the girls cannot go into games wet behind the ears," said Harris

"It's a huge step up from domestic football, it is much more physical and the biggest club competition in the world."

All the qualification games in the Archers' group will be played in Slovenia, even those not involving hosts Beltinci, who the Welsh team play in their opener on Wednesday, 7 August (19:45 BST).

Cardiff Met's top-scorer and Welsh Premier Women's League's player of the season for last season, Madison Schupbach, is hoping the club can match their domestic form on the European stage.

"We are all working really hard, it is really intense," said Schupbach.

"We just want to use everything we have done this season and show Europe what we can do.

"I always say if you're not nervous about something you don't really care but the nerves stop once you kick-off.

"It's going to be a challenge, we are expecting it to be tough but we are going to be up there, work hard and match the intensity."

Cardiff Met WFC have won just two of their 15 previous Women's Champions League qualification games

Slovenian champions Beltinci, who are Cardiff Met's first opponents, finished their domestic season with 21 wins from 21 games and a remarkable +142 goal difference.

Up next for the Archers are three-time Scottish champions Hibernian, who will be hoping to reach the Round of 32 for the second time in three years.

The last game is against FC Nike, who are making their first appearance in the Women's Champions League qualification, and like Cardiff Met are hoping to become the first club from their nation to make it to the Round of 32.

'Mental toughness' needed to qualify

Robyn Pinder and Madison Schupbach
Madison Schupbach (R) scored twice as Cardiff Met WFC beat Abergavenny 2-0 to complete the domestic treble

Instead of playing just one or two games a week like the Archers are used to in domestic football, all three qualification games will take place within the space of six days.

Archers striker Robyn Pinder, who has played in all five of Cardiff Met's previous Champions League qualification groups, believes "mental toughness" will be key this year.

"You play so many games in such a short space of time so you have to make sure you are together," said Pinder.

"It is not 11 players that can get you out of the group, you really need to have depth which we have this year.

"Our pre-season we have tried to replicate as best we can the conditions out there.

"Luckily the weather has been good and we have played three games in a short period of time so hopefully that will be really beneficial to us when we are out there."

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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