Women's Champions League: Glentoran well prepared for European return

Glentoran beat Cliftonville earlier this month in a crucial top-two Premiership encouter

Glentoran forward Lauren Wade believes the improving standard of the Irish Premiership will stand her side in good stead when they begin their Women's Champions League campaign in Finland on Wednesday.

The Glens are putting their domestic title race to the side for now as they face Swiss champions Servette FCCF in a one-off tie in the new-look European format.

"The title race is bang on the money and every game you play in this league is important," said Wade.

"That will have helped us prepare coming into the Champions League."

Having won the league for the first time in eight years last season, Glentoran are again in the title hunt and locked in an intriguing race at the top with Cliftonville.

Northern Ireland forward Wade has recent Champions League experience having reached the quarter-finals of the 2019/20 competition.

Her spectacular goal was the highlight of an otherwise chastening experience for Glasgow, who fell to a 9-1 aggregate defeat by eventual finalists Wolfsburg, however it remains an experience that Wade believes she has benefitted from.

Lauren Wade
Wade scored a stunning goal in Glasgow City's 2020 Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg

"Individually that goal is one that I'm always going to remember. Scoring against Wolfsburg in the quarter-final of a Champions League, to be saying that out loud is very surreal," she said.

"That day didn't go our way but playing against world class players was an experience and a half.

"How good their speed of play was, how strong they were. I always say to be playing in those games is why we play football. Playing against the best is how you challenge yourself."

'We go as Glentoran representing Northern Ireland'

In Servette the Glens face a side that reached the last 16 of last season's competition.

The teams will meet in Finland as part of the restructured format, that saw them paired in a group with Finnish champions Aland United and Romania's Universitatea Olimpia Cluj, who also face each other on Wednesday.

The winners of the two ties will meet in the final on Saturday, with the victors then advancing to the second round of the competition.

Glentoran have hit their straps in recent weeks, winning their last four games while scoring 23 goals without conceding to sit top of the league, but just one point ahead of Cliftonville who have a game in hand.

Wade, one of a host of Northern Ireland internationals to ply her trade in the Irish Premiership, believes the growth of the domestic game will allow younger players to enter into European competitions better prepared to face the quality of opposition.

"This league that we play in is tough. But now we're having to express to some of the younger players who haven't played in Europe how big this week actually is, without making them feel nervous.

"It's about going out and expressing themselves - those players, and the team as a whole, have nothing to lose. It's go out and show them what we can do, and how football in Northern Ireland is taking a big step.

"We go as Glentoran representing Northern Ireland, to show Europe what we're made of."

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