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Bristol Academy striker Nikki Watts admits that their forthcoming UEFA Women's Champions League quarter final tie against FFC Frankfurt will be bigger than anything they have ever played in before.
It was the 27-year-old's penalty against Barcelona which secured the Vixens a place in the quarter finals, and as preparations step up ahead of Saturday's home tie against FFC Frankfurt, she shared her thoughts ahead of this weekend's encounter at Ashton Gate.
"I think it's fair to say it's probably the biggest game in the club's history so far," she enthused. "It is a really big achievement for the club, especially on a small budget like we are. But we will definitely be looking to go further and progress onto the next round."
Watts' penalty, which she calmly slotted away in front of a record crowd of 2,457 at Ashton Gate in November, was the decisive moment in a closely contested tie which saw the Vixens' edge the victory over Barcelona, winning 2-1 over the two legs. Despite the memories of the game fading, Nikki smiles as she reflects back: "I mean, it seems like a lifetime ago, it's been such a long time, a long break, new faces as well coming in, people leaving. But I do keep looking back still and pinching myself. It was quite an unbelievable evening, to be honest."
It may come as a surprise to many, but Bristol Academy are the last English club remaining in this year's competition and Nikki hopes that this platform will provide the opportunity to change the perception of the Club. Watts evidently takes pride in being an underdog which she believes many will see Bristol as in the quarter-final tie: "I think we really do sort of relish being the underdogs a lot of the time. Not even just in this competition, but domestically as well. But we've really shown that if you've got togetherness and the quality to go with it you don't need to spend big in order to achieve things."
Since the off-season, the club have witnessed a high turnover of players but Watts is confident the additions have allowed the team to develop an effective new style of play. She said: "There have been changes at the club, we've got a new style of play this season as well, so obviously we've had international breaks as well, so not everybody has been around at the same time.
"But the last couple of weeks we've had everybody back, we've really upped the focus and developed our style of play, looking ahead to Frankfurt and obviously into the WSL season as well."
Watts is well aware of the challenge that faces the team when they line up against three-time winners FFC Frankfurt but is sure that with the support of the Bristol crowd they are able to get the result needed. "Hopefully we get a good turnout again, lots of fans coming to watch us, and they get right behind us like they did especially in that second half against Barcelona, because that really did help us," she said.
"They're obviously a massive team in women's football, I think they've won this competition itself three times in the past. So that speaks for its history and their history in itself. But hopefully we won't be too fazed by that and we can get a good result leading to the second leg."
To make sure you are at Ashton Gate as Bristol Academy look to make history, visit www.bristolacademywfc.co.uk to buy your tickets and support the #VixensInEurope.
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