Arsenal's standards will be tested by Potsdam
Women's Champions League last 16
30 October ~ On Thursday the Champions League lives up to its name as Arsenal Ladies play Bundesliga champions Turbine Potsdam in the last 16 of the Women's Champions League. Like Arsenal, Turbine were losing semi-finalists last season. This will be Turbine's third visit to Great Britain in 18 months, following the 2011 final at Craven Cottage and a tie against Glasgow City at the same stage last season. They may not expect to repeat their 17-0 aggregate win but will be aiming to return to England for the final next May at Stamford Bridge.
For Turbine 2012 has been similar to 2011 in other ways. They won the Bundesliga, for the fourth year running and again saw players leave for rivals Frankfurt in the close season. This year international defenders Babett Peter and Bianca Schmidt headed west.
Bernd Schröder remains coach, a position he has held since Turbine's formation in 1971 and this year celebrated his 70th birthday. Faced with rebuilding again he shows no sign of losing his enthusiasm. Neither has he lost his famous bluntness. After the recent home defeat against Frankfurt, a match Turbine finished with nine players after an on-field collision resulted in two of the team being taken to hospital with head injuries, Schröder forcefully expressed his unhappiness that Frankfurt had taken advantage to score a last-minute winner.
The places of departing players have been filled by home grown talent promoted from the second team and also by new signings, including Scottish international Lisa Evans who last year played against Turbine for Glasgow City. Turbine have won five of their first six matches and are second in the table, a point behind Frankfurt but with a game in hand.
Arsenal won the 2012 Women's Super League without losing a game and reached this stage with a 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona. They will undoubtedly approach the tie with confidence. Top level women's football in England is now, however, a summer sport and Arsenal will be playing their first competitive matches since the domestic season ended in early October.
Turbine, on the other hand, have been able to play themselves into form with recent games against their main domestic rivals. They are also arguably the strongest team left in the tournament apart from defending champions Olympique Lyonnais. Last year's semi-final against Frankfurt showed that Arsenal were not yet at the level of Europe's best and they are about to find out just how far they have progressed. Peter Bateman
The first leg is at Meadow Park, Borehamwood, kick-off at 2pm. Admission is adults £5 under 16s free.