Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme, as UEFA Women's Champions League action returns to the Academy Stadium with the visit of Göteborg FC.
It's a 15:00 (UK) kick-off on Wednesday 16 December and the game will be available to watch live on CITY+ with our very own Aoife Mannion on co-commentary - so sign up and don't miss out! (And send in your questions for Aoife using the #WNRH hashtag on Twitter!)
We head into the clash holding a precious 2-1 victory from the away leg in Sweden - and two potentially pivotal away goals.
As always, we hear from Gareth Taylor and Steph Houghton, while European Champions Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood share their thoughts on what it takes to win the tournament.
Meanwhile, we look back on some of Demi Stokes' best moments in sky blue in celebration of her 150th appearance for the Club, and the spotlight is on Caroline Weir, following her fantastic run of form.
Plus, we take a closer look at our Swedish opposition and some of the players take on our hilarious IKEA or No Idea quiz, and we catch up with the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club...
Let's finish the job on home turf!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans.
It's fantastic to have Champions League football back at the Academy Stadium as we face Göteborg FC. Welcome to their manager Mats Gren, their players and staff.
I know it's been a long time since European football has graced this pitch and although I'm new to this role, I know the history of how we've fared in this competition and some of the special nights we've had here - and now, we're looking to go even further.
Home advantage will be important. We need to build on the familiarity of our surroundings. We've dealt with tough away games this season but this is what the Champions League is all about: dealing with different surroundings, weather, time zones... It's something we look forward to.
In Göteborg, we received the toughest tie we could have had in terms of the opposition teams available. We learned a lot last week in Sweden and although we won the first tie, we're very aware it's not over.
We need to respect Göteborg. They’re very fit and energetic and put us under real high pressure on their turf - on a pitch they’re used to playing on. Needless to say, it wasn't the start we wanted in Sweden so and we’ll be looking to earn the right to dictate the tempo we want early on.
The girls did really well in the away leg. We controlled large parts of the game but we still have work to do and we need to be wary of our opponent. We’re in a good position, we’ve done the hard work... Now it would be great to get to the Round of 16.
We’ve had a good week. We go into this game on the back of Sunday's late win over Arsenal. That was really important for us. With a point, I would have said: we’re still in amongst it, but that was a big win against title rivals and we were really pleased. There were some real good celebrations on the pitch and for us on the bench as well!
I think Sunday's game also showed the unity in the FA Women's Super League in the way everyone came together to support Jen Beattie. I used to pick Jen up in the mornings, as I used to travel past where she walked in to the City Football Academy, so I know her really well. Our hearts go out to her and we'll support her in the best way we possibly can.
It's been a busy few weeks but we seem to play better with more games - we're able to find our rhythm and momentum. We’ve had it before where we've gone on a good run and now, we want to keep that streak going to finish the year on a high before the Christmas break.
It’s about dealing on a game-by-game basis with the opposition in front of you; not getting too far ahead and giving yourself the best opportunity.
The Champions League is very important for this Football Club and progression is something we really want to achieve. We're really looking forward to the challenge and I hope we can build on our recent performances.
Finally, I'd like to extend my congratulations to Demi Stokes on her 150th City appearance and Caroline Weir on being named Scotland's Women's Player of the Year. Both players are key for us and it's great that they're earning recognition.
Enjoy the game.
Here we are again! Another huge game awaits...
We've had a big week with three wins out of three and hopefully, there are two mote to come. It's game after game - the story of our season - and we're just focusing on the next one that comes along.
Sunday's win over Arsenal was massive - and a really deserved three points. It's always dramatic with a 90th-minute winner but apart from their goal, we dominated for most of the game and we'd created enough chances to win it before then.
We controlled possession - they never really threatened in the second half - and it was just a case of putting the ball in the back of the net and thankfully, Caroline Weir did that with a great goal. (Congratulations to Caz on winning the Scotland Women's Player of the Year by the way!)
When you're playing a big club like Arsenal - with the team and players they have - beating them means the world. You could see from the celebrations how much it meant to us all. There's still a long way to go in the title race but we're in a better position now because of those three points.
It's about trusting each other and trusting in the process we have at the Club, playing the way we know we can play. The last few games have shown you always have to be switched on - focused from the first minute to the last.
We recognise we've started slowly in our last two games and that's something we have to speak about as players and maybe doing something differently - whether that's making a change to the warm-up or the walk as we leave the dressing room... It is quite a long time from getting changed to getting out there.
We know the way we've started those games has not been to our standards. Straight from the minute the referee blows the whistle, we have to be ready. I'm sure we'll learn from those experiences.
Focus is key and it's important not to be complacent on Wednesday. We played well over in Sweden but we know we have to be at the top of our game, utilising the squad as much as we can, to make sure we come away with a win.
The Champions League is a big competition for us. We came back to Manchester with a great result but the job isn't done yet. As we saw, Göteborg have some great individual players and they're in the competition on merit. Hopefully, we can produce another good performance on our home turf.
Then, we have another important league game against Birmingham, who are a tough side to play against. They've had a good run of results and again, we'll be looking to put in a performance, as with every game. It's crucial we stay on top form in the league.
On a separate note away from football, I'd like to send my love to Jen Beattie. Beats is one of my best friends. She's gone through a tough time over the last few months but seeing what she's done over the last few days has been amazing. She's a credit to herself and her family.
She's an unbelievable person and she's always putting others before herself. To see the response she has had shows how much she means to everybody. I'm so proud to call her my friend. I know she knows I'm always there for her, as are all of the girls. We're with her every step of the way and I know she's got this.
I'd also like to congratulate Demi Stokes on her 150th appearance for the Club. Demi is one of the most consistent performers. She goes under the radar a lot, just doing her job but without doubt, she's one of the best full-backs in the league. There aren't many wingers who get past her! She's an unbelievable person and teammate to have and she thoroughly deserves her 150 appearances for this Club.
Come on, City!
150 NOT OUT!
Congratulations to Demi Stokes on making
her 150th City appearance in the win over Arsenal.
FULL SWEDE AHEAD
Sight-seeing and sharp scooting around Gothenburg!
GOLDEN GIRL BRONZE SETS
SIGHTS ON MORE SILVERWARE
'You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.' – C. S. Lewis.
When you have achieved all there is to achieve, the questions are always ventured: ‘Where do you go from here? What's next? How do you keep yourself motivated?’
The answer is: to find a new goal.
City and England star Lucy Bronze boasts a CV glittering with trophies and medals: a stunning selection of individual and collective accolades – some of the highest honours on offer.
Widely regarded as the best player in the world, the defender had to make a life-changing decision to follow her dream, uprooting and heading to France to ply her trade with Olympique Lyonnais in the hope of tasting Champions League success.
Three European Cups (plus six domestic titles and plenty of acclaim) later, the right-back has returned to Manchester to chase a new dream, as a self-professed superior player, person and leader.
So, what’s next for the 2019 UEFA Player of the Year...? To repeat that success in her home country.
Bronze’s new goal could not be more exciting for the English game, as the 29-year-old seeks to elevate the FA Women’s Super League to the best league in the world.
The summer of 2020 marked a watershed moment for the WSL with the arrival of some of the globe’s hottest talents and biggest names, including Bronze herself.
Attracting players of such calibre has signalled the loudest statement of intent for our top flight – and Bronze aims to capitalise on the opportunity to further strengthen the game for Club and country, by imparting her vast knowledge, wisdom and experience to the younger generations.
“Trying to make the English league the best in the world is one of my goals,” she said.
“I needed to come back and be successful in England. I’ve come back a better player, better leader and better person, who is capable of bringing success domestically and internationally.
“I went to Lyon to win the Champions League and play with the best players in the world – and now, I want to come back and have the same success in England.
“No English team has ever won the Champions League (although Arsenal won the UEFA Cup) so I have my sights set on that.
“I’ve won it three times in a row – why not four times? There’s only one other English person who has ever won it four times so that would be a new achievement I could do.
“I want to help the national team too. I want to help the young players become the best they can be. I want to teach them – take them under my wing and say: ‘This is how you win, this is how to be the best, this is what you need to do for Club and country.’
“I’ve watched the English league every year and I’d always said to the French girls: ‘The way things are going, the English league is going to be the best league in the world.
“Now, compared to when I left, the league has changed rapidly. That’s what I wanted. When I did leave, I’d wanted it a little quicker – I’m a very impatient person!
“We’re definitely getting there. Now, the league is in a much better place.
“You can see how much the teams have improved. Players want to come and play in England – the French players would say: ‘Wow, England looks amazing. I want to play there one day!’
“The aspiration for a lot of top players is to come to England.
“Being English, I’m proud of that – the only way I could show it was by coming back to play in England, and I’m so excited to see what the coming years will bring.”
WONDERWEIR REALLY HERE
Caroline Weir - the woman on fire!
The newly crowned Scotland Women's Player
of the Year is in red-hot form.
In addition to her super match-winning strike against
Arsenal on Sunday, the midfield maestro has
crafted four assists in her last three games!
Ever humble, the 25-year-old asserts she's just happy
to be helping the team, which she believes
boasts 'the strongest squad she's ever played with...'
"My role is to help the team and it's been nice to do that.
"This is probably the strongest squad I've ever been part of. It's very competitive, which is great - we learn from each other every day in training and you're challenged every day.
"There's no guarantee to play. If you come off, we have players who can come on and do a similar job.
"Having that level of competitive edge makes us better players and ultimately, a better team.
"In the position I'm playing this season, I'm looking to pick the ball up in dangerous areas and make things happen - whether that's crossing, slipping players in or shooting.
"Making runs into the box and ensuring there's an end product is something we work on a lot.
"When you have the players we have in attacking positions, it makes your job easier - all you have to do is find them because you know they're probably going to get something on target.
"For example, Ellen White thrives off that and when you've played together for a few seasons, you get to know each other. She's great to play with and so good at making things look better than they are; getting goals out of nothing!
"We have so many quality players in different positions, who are popping up with goals at the right time. Having so many different goalscorers is a good thing and shows we have such a good squad."
Founded: 1970 (Landvetters IF)
Stadium: Valhalla IP
Coaches: Mats Gren, Jörgen Ericsson
Svenska Cupen: 2011, 2012
Svenska Supercupen: 2013
Georgia Stanway netted her 50th goal for City as Gareth Taylor’s side fought back from an early setback to gain advantage in the Champions League Round of 32.
The forward struck four minutes before the break in Sweden to bag a crucial away goal and level the tie, after Vilde Bøe Risa had opened the scoring for Göteborg FC inside two minutes at the Valhalla IP.
Sam Mewis then marked her European debut with a goal to turn the game on its head with just under 15 minutes to go, handing the visitors a strong 2-1 advantage to take back to Manchester in a week's time.
City mounted an impressive comeback in difficult conditions on a bitterly cold evening in Sweden, to give us a crucial advantage going into the return leg in Manchester.
Did you know...?
City's win in Sweden marked our 100th away game (excluding those in neutral venues).
Steph Houghton and Ellen White played against Göteborg FC in the 2011/12 Champions League quarter-finals with Arsenal.
White found the net in a 3-1 home win and while the Gunners fell to a 1-0 loss on away soil, they progressed with a 3-2 victory on aggregate.
Tomorrow evening (Thursday 17 December), the
Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club will
be hosting our Christmas Raffle via a Zoom meeting.
As with so many things this year, our annual Christmas Bash has had to be postponed but we wanted to have a virtual get together with our wonderful members to thank them for pulling together and being there for each other in what has been a difficult time for everybody.
A festive chat, quiz and a raffle with some very
special prizes seemed a good way to celebrate.
The MCWFC OSC would like to thank everybody at
the Football Club for the help and support they
have given whilst we have been unable to attend games.
Enabling us to display our flags at the ground, streaming games, providing engaging content online and even arranging virtual meetings like the one our members enjoyed with Gareth Taylor and Jill Scott have all helped to make a very difficult time easier to cope with, while also showing the team our support is as fervent as ever.
Finally, we wish everyone at the Club and City fans everywhere
a VERY Merry Christmas and a hopeful New Year.
We hope to see you all very soon.
Thank you, City!
MCWFC Official Supporters Club
Q&A WITH → ALEX GREENWOOD
Our lethal left-footer on what
it takes to win the Champions League...
Alex, it probably doesn't seem that long ago since you lifted the Champions League trophy in August... but how does it feel to be embarking on a new European season?
It doesn't feel that long ago but a lot has happened since then though - we've lifted a trophy with City!
I'm fully focused on the job in hand with Manchester City in the Champions League. Once we knew our opposition, it felt a little bit more real.
It's exciting times and I'd been really looking forward to playing in the competition with City.
How does a European game differ to an FA Women's Super League game?
It's very different. It's under the lights with the Champions League music, the kit... It's a special night when you play in Europe. It's one that you have to enjoy.
It's a fantastic competition to be a part of and it's something you always want to be a part of. It's something you want more and more, as the competition goes on.
With both you and Lucy Bronze having lifted the Champions League trophy, there's a suggestion that you can both help inspire City to do the same. Does this bring any pressure?
No, no pressure at all! If anything, it's quite exciting.
I'll not lie to you, I talk about it a lot. It's something that I'd love more than anything for this Club to experience. It's something you can never really explain until you've done it.
We can only speak of our experience. What the other girls take is up to them. This competition is not alien to them. You take each game as it comes.
Lucy and I have got all our memories and feelings of winning the tournament but to do all over again with this Club in my own country would be special.
You've spoken before about the process of building a winning team. So far, this season has brought mixed results but from what you've seen and experienced, can City can be successful in the Champions League this season?
Hopefully, we'll get the job done on Wednesday and then we can continue in this competition.
I do genuinely believe that if you think you can win something, you can... but it's a long process. I'm realistic and I know that this is a fairly new team with new players and a new manager and it's not going to click overnight.
It's going to take time and we've seen from results: in some games, we were unbelievable and things haven't gone go our way... Sometimes, we've not been so great and things have gone our way...
In this competition, you have to turn up on the night. Okay, you have a home and away leg but you don't want the game to get away from you. We'll be diligent in our gameplan and we'll and try and win - simple as that.
It's a long season and we can't think too far ahead. We'll concentrate first and foremost on the Round of 32 and see where our performances take us.
The mentality in Lyon was all about winning and not being afraid to say: 'We want to win the Champions League.' There's nothing wrong in saying that and that's one thing I do say to the rest of the team: 'It's okay to say we want to win this competition. '
I think a winning mentality is installed in both teams in different ways. Lyon have done it on a number of occasions... We haven't had that success but we’ve won the FA Cup and we've won our last three games coming into this game. That in itself is a strong mentality.
How have you found playing at centre-back?
I love it! Anywhere on the pitch, you are happy but I really enjoy it.
Gaz has worked a lot with us there. I have Lucy Bronze to the right, Steph Houghton in the middle and Demi Stokes on the left... It's been great.
I feel I've fitted in nicely. We've had some tough opponents but think we’ve done really well and I hope it continues.
We've had a bit of a slow start in the last few games. Is that a concern?
It's been a little bit of a wake-up call. It happens, it's football...
It's about how you react to those setbacks and our reaction was perfect. We controlled the game from Göteborg's goal and when we scored, I had no doubts we’d win the game. It was the same on Sunday against Arsenal.
Göteborg won’t be a pushover but if we stick to the gameplan, and set out to do what we want to do, we'll have a very good chance of reaching the last 16.
Games like this are what it's all about - why you play football . Winning the Champions League with Lyon was an experience but if I can do it in my own country with City, it will be even bigger than what we've done before.