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Uchendu, Faith Michael Set Champions League Targets

Nigerian women national team, Super Falcons’ duo of Faith Michael and Chinaza Uchendu are setting similar targets for their respective clubs, as they go out for their debuts in the UEFA Women’s Champions League this Wednesday and Thursday.

While Uchendu will be in action with Sporting Braga of Portugal on Thursday, with a mission to make up for defeat in their last game, Michael (nee Ikidi) is seeking higher ground with Pitea of Sweden, as they line out in the same elite women’s championship on Wednesday.

In Portugal, Uchendu and her colleagues at Braga will hope to continue their fairytale run on their maiden Champions League appearance and recover from the jaws of defeat, as they host Paris Saint-Germain in a round of 32, first-leg tie on Thursday.

Uchendu is setting her sights on inspiring her side past Olivier Echouafni’s side, but recalls how The Minho Warriors bowed to Benfica in Sunday’s Portuguese Super Cup, and is aiming for to bounce back on Thursday, with a view that Sporting Braga must learn from their mistakes.

Miguel Santos’ ladies failed to keep the Portuguese Super Cup they won last season after a 1-0 defeat to Benfica at Estadio Joao Cardoso on Sunday, as Braga had earlier suffered a 4-2 loss to the same opponent in the Women’s Cup before they became Portugal’s Liga BPI champions for the first time in the club’s history in May.

It was also a glorious run for Uchendu’s side in Europe, as the Portuguese champions beat Sturm Graz, Apollon Limassol and Rigas in the play-offs, to reach the round of 32, heading into which Uchendu, who moved to Braga in July 2018, said her side will recover from their Super Cup loss to shine against the French giants in Tondela on Thursday.

Uchendu told Goal: “I feel really bad about our loss because I was positive we were going to win but we lost concentration three minutes into the second half and that cost us the Cup.

“We’ve lost a title and it’s normal to feel bad about it as a team but we won’t dwell on that. That one is gone and we can’t do anything about it, we have learnt from our mistakes and we will do better in our subsequent games, beginning against PSG.

“It was very important to me because that’s what I’m here for, to win trophies and was also hoping I would make history with the team again by winning the Super Cup for the second time. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well but there are still trophies to win in the future.

“Going up against PSG, personally I will do whatever I can to help the team. We all know it’s going to be a tough game but as a team, we will give everything to make sure we get a positive result at the end of the day.”

A similar target will be on the mind of Michael, as she joins Stellan Carlsson’s side at home in a Scandinavian derby against Brondby of Denmark in the first leg at the LF Arena on Wednesday, before the reverse fixture holds in two weeks.

Michael says she feels highly honored to be part of the Swedish champions, as they begin their continental challenge against Brondby and the Nigerian defender hopes they make a fine outing, because it means everything for her and her team playing in the Women’s Champions League.

It comes ten years after the 32-year-old star celebrated the Swedish Damallsvenskan title with Linkoping and went on to debut in 2010 Champions League but they crashed out in the quarter-final against Wolfsburg.

Earlier in May, Michel made history with Pitea as they claimed the Damallsvenskan title for the first time in the club’s history on the final day of the 2018-19 season, as her club finished at the top with 48 points, followed by Goteborg with 47 points – a feat that saw them automatically qualify to represent Sweden in this year’s Women’s Champions League.

However, Michael’s team have made a false start to the 2019-20 campaign, as they are winless in five games in a row, sitting eighth with 23 points behind leaders, Rosengard after 16 ties, but the veteran defender insists her side’s round of 32 derby with the reigning Danish champions will be approached differently and believes they can carry the day by playing pretty seriously.

Micheal told Goal: “It’s being an amazing journey of victories and challenges. The experience featuring in the Champions League has always been exciting, getting to play other clubs from another country.

“We’ve not been at our best this season and that’s football for you, but I can assure that we are approaching the Women’s Champions League the very best way we can.

“It means everything playing Champions League again. It’s a privilege and a reward for the hard work which comes from winning the league title or finishing second.

“Is not a round of 32 but the Round of 16 looking forward to playing the team that was a sign to us. It has a lot of importance to many, for some players in the team, it’s their first.

“It is an honour for a small city to have Pitea playing Champions League and for me, It’s a great joy to being part of the history.

“It is the Round of 16 and playing against a team from Demark, our expectation is to take one step at a time and see how far we go but obviously is to go beyond the stage of the competition.”

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