Lee Gibson eyeing Champions League progression as Glasgow City host debutants Roma in first qualifying round
Eileen Gleeson’s side must defeat the Serie A outfit to have any chance of progressing in the tournament.
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City, whose 14-year reign as SWPL champions was ended by Rangers last season, have reached the quarter-finals of the competition on two separate occasions in the past seven years.
Eileen Gleeson’s side take on the Italian giants at Petershill Park in the opening round of a four-team mini tournament, with Servette and Paris FC also playing on Thursday for a spot in Sunday’s final.
If they are victorious, City will progress to a two-legged tie (to be determined) in the second round where a group stage place is at stake.
After finishing runners-up to Juventus in Serie A last season, Roma will make their European debut but City No.1 Gibson reckons facing them at home is a “huge” factor.
Speaking exclusively to Glasgow World, the 30-year-old stopper said: “We’re all looking forward to it. This is why you play football, to be involved in big games like this.
“Especially at this club, it’s a competition we pride ourselves on. They’re always really exciting occasions.
“Obviously we know it will be a tough tie on Thursday and if we get through that it’s going to be even tougher on Sunday, but that’s just the way it is nowadays.
“The calibre of teams that are in these early rounds are getting better each year, so we can’t wait to have Champions League football back at Petershill.
“I don’t think many teams like coming here. We’ve got lots of good memories from playing Champions League football here over the years, probably going back a decade now, so it’s a huge factor for us to have the tie at our home ground.
“The fans always make a massive difference to us. We want as many to turn up and cheer us on as possible.”
Rutherglen-born Gibson is one of the club’s longest serving players and was part of both City squads to reach the latter stages of the Champions League in season 2014/15 and 19/20.
Asked what her favourite memory in the competition has been, the 38-time capped Scotland international stated: “I have been fortunate to be part of both teams that reached the quarter finals on two different occasions but 2019 was the best year we had.
“We managed to beat Brondby on penalties which was a special night and is probably my favourite standout memory.”
Wholesale changes have taken place at the club over the summer, with head coach Gleeson adding as many as NINE new signings to her squad for the new season, including several international stars.
After recording back-tob-ack victories over Spartans and Motherwell in the opening set of SWPL 1 fixtures, Gibson reckons the squad is in good shape heading into tonight’s match.
She admitted: “Having that (international) experience is massive. The more you can add to that the stronger your squad will be.
“You can also help to push the younger players on and give them a little bit of advice going into a big game like this.
“Many of us have been have experience of playing Champions League football, so hopefully that can prove beneficial.”
What do we know about Roma?
Formed in the summer of 2018 after AS Roma took over the licence of RES Roma, the club secured their first honour in 2021 when they beat Juventus on penalties to lift the Coppa Italia.
Roma achieved their best league placing last term by coming second and finishing five place behind the Turin side.
Managed by Alessandro Spugna, the team includes four members of Italy’s squad from the Women’s European Championships this summer.
Like City, they have made nine new signings ahead of starting their domestic season, including former Bayern Munich defender Carina Wenninger,
Gibson commented: “We’re doing a lot of analysis on Roma, looking at how they play, how we can stop them from having the ball and limiting their attacking threat.
“We know that we just need to bring our A-game on the night and hopefully it takes us through.”
Where can I watch the match?
Glasgow City host Roma, this Thursday (18 August) live on BBC ALBA and BBC iPlayer. Kick-off is 7.35pm, with coverage starting at 7.25pm.