Karen Bardsley asserts the pressure is all on Lyon, ahead of City’s Women’s Champions League semi-final second leg clash.
The Blues held the holders to a goalless draw in the first leg at the Academy Stadium, preventing the French outfit from bagging an away goal, and travel to France for the return leg on Sunday.
With Nick Cushing’s side heading into the tie as underdogs, Bardsley insists her side can play with freedom and will hope to produce a similarly impressive display to book a place in a first ever European final.
“The draw has given us a lot of belief,” she told ManCity.com. “The pressure is on them – they are the European Champions and they are expected to win.
“We’re not expected to win but it’s all about using the chances you get and making the most of them.
“I think they will have been frustrated with Sunday’s result. We realise we’re going to have to step it up another level and we now we have more to give, and we understand they probably do as well.
“It’s interesting – you see things maybe a little differently as you get a little older. I don’t think fear is a word we should be bandying about.
“If you get an opportunity to play, you should see it as such and ensure you give yourself the best opportunity to play well against top opposition.
“We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity going into the second leg. Hopefully, we can go there and put in a similar if not better performance and score a goal or two – that would be great!”
Reflecting on the home stalemate, Bardsley added the positive proves how far City have come since the two sides locked horns at the last four stage 12 months ago.
“Coming away one year after getting beat at home in the first leg, it was a massive moment for us,” she continued. “We could reflect on the progress we’ve made and think about how we’ve learned to manage games and manage momentum against top opposition.
“I was really proud of the team on both sides of the ball, particularly defensively. There were some great last-ditch tackles and some really good tracking back. I thought Demi Stokes in particular was outstanding.
“I felt that as a cohesive unit, we really worked together. I think that was really important and showed through. After the game, everyone was saying the same thing about how we just looked like we were so determined to keep a clean sheet.
“To have seen the stands so full and have the atmosphere we did was really great too. I noticed a lot of the men’s fans came across too and that really bolstered us as well.”
The shot-stopper was also pleased with her own match-saving display, particularly after having spent a spell on the sidelines.
She added: “Although I was a bit busy, we limited them to fairly predictable chances for the most part.
“It was really nice to be back on the pitch. I really enjoyed it and I was really pleased with the impact I had on the game.
“It’s been a tough season for me. It’s been really up and down with a lot of injuries so I’ve had to wait and be patient.
“I’m really grateful for all of the support throughout – not only for my personal journey but throughout the season.
“I know people probably have had their own perceptions of what’s been going on – when you’re out injured, people always speculate – but my reality is different than theirs.
“I don’t really read a lot of headlines or news or anything. It always comes back down to controlling the controllable and knowing what I know. I’ve had a lot of work to do to stay fit and get healthy, and wait my turn.
“At the end of the day, I’m the one who knows all the information and frankly, my opinion is the only one that matters when it comes to situations like that. I’m not really that fussed what anyone else has to say.”
City have the unusual luxury of a week between games. Asked whether she feels the break could in fact more of a hindrance than help mentally, Bardsley replied: “I don’t think it will add to the pressure – it allows us to prepare and recover.
“I wouldn’t say the team feels more pressure. If anything, we feel we have the chance to really enjoy ourselves a little bit more. We can be mindful of what we need to achieve but also enjoy what we’re doing.
“At the end of the day, together we’re going to have to put in a very good 90 minutes to get ourselves to the final.
“We’re going to go to Lyon’s ground with its great atmosphere and try to be more attacking, capitalising on any opportunities we get.
“It’s a real opportunity for us and we’re all very much up for the challenge.”