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KB relishing European dream

ELATION: Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott celebrate City's first Super League title

ELATION: Karen Bardsley and Jill Scott celebrate City's first Super League title

Karen Bardsley says she couldn't be more proud to be playing in the Champions League with Man City Women.

Although no stranger to success in her career, England's number one admits she thought the chance to play in Europe's top club competition had passed her by.

From the day she signed for Nick Cushing's side in 2013, she became a key component and has played a major role, as the Blues have lifted three pieces of silverware in three seasons - this year, a domestic double.

The 31-year-old added she is delighted to be making history with the club, and hopes to continue to do so on the continental stage.

She told ManCity.com: "I am really excited about it. I’ve never played in it before and it gives us the opportunity to play some really interesting, new opposition and a bunch of new challenges we’ve never faced before.

"There are a lot of unknowns for me personally in terms of what the level is going to be like. I’m expecting each game to be extremely difficult.

"It’s really special because it’s not something I thought I’d have the opportunity to do. It wasn’t available when I was playing in the States and when I moved to Europe, I was hoping it would happen but I was never really sure it would. It’s a massive achievement for me personally.

"It’s a great moment for us as a club and for the girls that were here at the formation of the Manchester City Women team back in 2014. It’s a massive opportunity for us to achieve another goal and hopefully, win another trophy.

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"We want to keep building the club’s history, and we need some really good tests to push ourselves forward and evolve and change to compete with Europe’s best."

City play their second European fixture on Wednesday night against Zvezda Perm, having secured a precious 2-0 lead from the first leg at the Academy Stadium, thanks to goals from Bardsley's fellow Lionesses Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze.

A virtual spectator in the clash in Manchester, the goalkeeper warns the hosts will come out all guns blazing, in a bid to slice the deficit early on.

"I expect every single team to come out full throttle from this stage onwards and I expect nothing less from Zvezda," she predicted. "We were very fortunate to score the late goal which gave us more of a cushion but I expect they’ll want to come straight out of the gates and try and score three.

"We’ll do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen but it will be difficult in terms of conditions, travel and the opposition – they’ve got good tactical and technical ability. Hopefully, we’ll perform a bit better on the night as well. We’re all really positive and enthusiastic and hopefully, we can continue to do what we’ve been doing all season.

"In any competition, if you ask anybody why they’re in it, they’re always in it to win it, as cliché as it sounds. It’s the right mentality to have. It’s our first season in the Champions League but I don’t see why we can’t set high goals for ourselves. We know each game will get harder but in order to win prestigious tournaments, we have to beat the best teams in Europe. We’re on the right track.

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"We’ve got off to a great start. I’m fortunate that there aren’t many things I’ve not had the opportunity to achieve so to play on this stage is a really exciting opportunity for me. It means a lot and I hope we can have a deep run."

When asked where City's record-breaking campaign, which has seen Bardsley concede just three times in 15 games, the shot-stopper replied: "It’s been a tremendous season. It’s been different in goalkeeping terms – different scales – but it’s been enjoyable.

"I’m really proud of our defensive record, even though I think it could be even better! I’m incredibly proud of the girls for the amount of hard work, dedication and professionalism they’ve shown to bring home two trophies and do a domestic double.

"It’s been amazing to be part of. I’ve never been part of a group or team like this before and I think that’s what I’m most proud of – the way we’ve come together.

"We’re all different individuals but we bring something different to the table and function really well as a collective. We have an identity and we all want to win and achieve. We all have a common goal and vision, and it’s really exciting to watch."

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