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Arsenal manager Tony Gervaise admits that Sparta Prague will be a "step up" for his side in the UEFA Women's Champions League but he is confident his team can book their place in the quarter finals.
The English Champions are in the Czech Republic for the first leg of their last-16 tie and Gervaise wants to see the same application which earned Arsenal a thumping 18-0 aggregate win over PAOK in the previous round.
Sparta needed two second leg strikes from Lucia Ondrusova to squeeze past Kazakhstan Champions Alma KTZH at the same stage and the Gunners are firm favourites to progress over two legs, but Gervaise is taking nothing for granted against a team he knows a thing or two about.
"They make up the bulk of the Czech national side and I know a year ago they had the national coach running their team because I crossed swords with him when I was assistant coach for the Scottish national team," he told www.arsenal.com.
"We know seven or eight of them are internationals. Other than that we know they sit fourth in their league and their results have been quite indifferent this season - they are about eight points off the pace. It's difficult to get a lot of information on these teams but fortunately I have used my Scottish contacts who saw them training last year.
"They will play a typical continental game with one up and it will be a step up from PAOK, make no mistake. We are in the last 16 now so it's the top teams. This is the next step and we want to get through it and take our place in the quarter finals in this new Champions League structure. If we win this tie we can put Europe to bed until March for the last eight. That's what we want to do."
Julie Fleeting was back in action on Sunday for the first time since giving birth in July and scored twice as Keynsham Town were beaten in the League Cup. But the Scotland striker will not feature against Sparta and two England internationals could also miss out.
"Julie is not ready for a game like this," said Gervaise. "Sunday was a good game for her to play in and that's no disrespect to Keynsham, they gave us a game. We gave Julie 45 minutes and she scored twice but she is ring rusty and she needs games. She was a bit sore and needs to rest up so we'll see how she recovers.
"Rachel Yankey is a slight doubt because she aggravated her hamstring but she should be okay and Faye White came off early against Keynsham because of an ongoing knee injury. We'll see how she is and we'll make a decision nearer kick off but it's not a problem because we've got strength in depth and a good blend.
"Things are starting to come together for us. We're not quite there yet but we're picking up a nice rhythm of play. I want a bit more from them but we're keeping clean sheets and scoring goals from all over the pitch. That's the foundation for us."
(Courtesy of www.arsenal.com)
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