Hibs Ladies try to focus on Forfar as Bayern tie looms

Lucy Graham has already been capped by Scotland at Under-19 level. Pic: SNS

Lucy Graham has already been capped by Scotland at Under-19 level. Pic: SNS

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When there’s a small matter of a Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich on the horizon, Hibs Ladies could be forgiven for almost overlooking Sunday’s rather less glamorous game away to Forfar Farmington.

Since being drawn against the German champions, they have managed to do so as they’ve continued to chase down Glasgow City at the top of the Scottish Women’s Premier League.

But, admitted midfielder Lucy Graham, as the clock has ticked down on Wednesday’s dream tie to be played at Easter Road, it’s become more and more difficult for her and her team-mates to think of anything else.

The 19-year-old said: “The draw was the sort of thing dreams are made of, Bayern are the German champions, one of the best teams in Europe, if not the world.

“We’ve had a busy schedule, training and games, it’s all been coming at us thick and fast so we’ve had to concentrate on them, but the closer the Champions League game has come the harder it’s been to do that and knuckle down.

“Obviously Forfar this weekend is gong to be a completely different game, but it is important we get the three points 
and then look forward to Wednesday.”

Graham, a Scotland Under-19 cap, concedes the Capital side will be very much the underdogs against a club whose players are all full-time, but insisted Hibs will be fully prepared for the match.

She said: “We’ve never been in the Champions League before so it’s something we have no experience of whatsoever, an entirely different but exciting challenge.

“But we’ll be fully prepared. We do a lot of video analysis, there’s plenty of work goes on in the background and we’ll have videos of them to study.

“A lot of their games are televised so we’ve seen them in action.

“Lisa Evans, who is a Scottish internationalist, plays for them so we obviously know her, but the Bayern team is packed with players from the German national side.

“They have plenty of experience, there’s no such thing as a poor player in their team. They are not German champions and one of the favourites to win the competition for nothing.

“I’ve been to see Glasgow City play in the Champions League in previous season and they’ve done well. It’s obviously a big step up, but while it is going to be tough, it’s something for us all to look forward to.”

A glance at the draw for the “round of 32” throws up names such as Paris St Germain, Lyon, Chelsea, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and Barcelona, underlining the strength of women’s football throughout 
Europe and, Graham admitted, Hibs are hoping their venture on to such a stage can help 
promote the game in this 
country.

The children’s multi-sports coach said: “You look at some of the women’s teams in Europe and they are all ‘legacy’ names. Bayern, for example, are full-time players whereas our girls are full-time students or having to balance working with playing.

“But I think the profile of women’s football here is rising, I’ve had a few friends who’ve come along to a game only to say they didn’t realise how good it is.

“Representing your country at this level is a big thing so hopefully we’ll get the publicity and attract a good crowd along.

“The fact we are playing the game at Easter Road also helps bring home just how big a game this is going to be.

“It’s exciting to see a smaller team like Hibs playing Bayern. It’s going to be very difficult for us but stranger things have happened, think Leicester.”

HOW THE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HAS GROWN

The Women’s Champions League began its life as the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2001-02 before a rebrand in 2008.

The format has changed over the competition’s history, with the final – apart from in the very first incarnation of the competition – originally being played over two legs. This was changed in 2008 to have the final played in the same city as the men’s final in the same week.

Before this season, only the top eight leagues in Europe have sent their top two clubs into the competition, but this campaign sees the expansion of the competition to include the top two clubs in the top 12 leagues in Europe, allowing Hibs to return to the competition for the first time since taking part in the early qualifying rounds in 2004, 2006 and 2007. This season’s competition comprises 59 clubs from 47 associations.

German clubs have dominated the competition. FFC Frankfurt have won four titles, while Turbine Potsdam and Wolfsburg have each won the competition twice, with Duisburg the other German winner.

Ayr United were the first Scottish team to take part in the competition in 2001, finishing third in their group behind Toulouse and Ukrainian side Lehenda-Cheksil. Scotland have also been represented by Glasgow City and Kilmarnock. In 2014, Glasgow City reached the quarter-finals, which remains the furthest any Scottish club has progressed.

There has only been one British winner of the competition, with Arsenal LFC winning the competition in 2007.