Womens Premiership


04 Nov 2020
Phil Lewis
Linfield Ladies boss Phil Lewis is under no illusions of the task facing his side as they take on Anderlecht in Brussels in the Women's Uefa Champions League on Wednesday.
The Blues played the Belgian giants - who reached the last 32 of the competition last year - in last season’s competition but fell to a 3-1 at their Lotto Park home, which will once again play host to this encounter.
Anderlecht are a powerhouse of the women’s game and have a squad full of international pedigree, including the signing of Belgium striker Tessa Wullaert from Manchester City this year.
This season’s Champions League was originally scheduled to start in August but was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the schedule shortened from group stages to individual knockout games.
As at all levels of sport, the ramifications of the pandemic have heavily disrupted Linfield’s season - as they have not played a competitive match since September.
"All I can ask for is that the girls prepare as I've asked them to and they go out and give 100 percent," Blues boss Lewis has said.
“Anderlecht are historically a very strong club throughout women's football and normally get through to the last 32 each year.
"They have a massive budget and they are all professionals so it's going to be a big task."
Linfield defeated Greek side PAOK in last season’s competition group stage but finished behind Anderlecht and LSK Kvinner of Norway.
On Tuesday, the club jetted out from Belfast International Airport on a chartered aircraft with a 19-strong panel of players, alongside five coaching staff and two clubs officials.
Such preparations means there is reduced interaction with the public and allows the coaching staff and players to prepare fully for the encounter.
"The club has been absolutely fantastic to us in chartering an aircraft to get us there safely so we're limiting who we're meeting,” added Lewis. 
“We fly over there and are straight on to a coach to the hotel. Play the game and then return.
"The club has certainly backed us and made sure we're safe in all our travels as well and hopefully producing a half-decent performance on the pitch."
Linfield are in somewhat of a transition season - they have won the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership for four successive seasons but currently languish in third place halfway through the campaign, after a series of star exits in recent times.
Sisters Kirsty and Caitlin McGuinness - the club’s two top scorers last season - have joined Sion Swifts, while Chloe McCarron joined Birmingham to follow the exits abroad of stars such as Louise McDaniel, Lauren Perry and Megan Bell.
"Results have probably gone as I have expected and I said at the start of the season about it being a period of transition after losing a number of players and then trying to bring younger players through," Lewis continued.
 "Certainly in some of the games we've played very well. Hopefully we'll have some type of role in seeing who are the champions this year.
"If it's ourselves, we need other clubs to slip up but if it's not, hopefully we'll produce performance that will dictate who wins the league."