Gareth Taylor has admitted it’s a ‘real shame’ that there will not be room in the Champions League group stages for both Manchester City and Real Madrid, after the pair were drawn in the same qualifying round.
City and Real each finished third in their respective domestic leagues to book their place in this season’s Champions League, but both are required to go through the qualifying tournament if they are to secure a place in the group stages.
City face Tomiris-Turan on Thursday evening in their Round 1 semi-final. Should they emerge victorious, they will play the winner of Real Madrid vs Sturm Graz.
One further two-legged Round 2 qualifying fixture in September would then await in order to get through to the group stage. Taylor’s side fell at the Round 2 stage of Champions League qualification last term, losing 2-1 over two legs to Real.
“Both us and Madrid were dealt a really difficult tie in Round 2 [last season],” Taylor said. “It’s so rare that that happens, that you get two seeded teams that meet each other in Round 2, and it’s happened in Round 1 this year so it’s unbelievable really.
“It goes to show the levels in the women’s game are really improving, and second place in the league now is not going to guarantee you an easy tie. So this is a really tough challenge.
“The unfortunate thing for me is we’ll lose one really good team who should be in the group stages and I think when you look at the set up of the competition that’s a real shame for me and I think it was a shame last year and I think it’ll be a shame this year because one of us is going to suffer.”
City exited the Champions League early last term after enduring an injury hit start to the campaign. With the squad refreshed after a busy summer transfer window, Taylor insisted his side are in a better position this time around.
“It was so difficult last season with the Olympics; players had more time off and we found out that didn’t work for us,” the City boss added.
“We were trying to protect the players at that time and we encountered a hell of a lot of injuries to a relatively small squad. But I think this summer we’re in better shape with the squad in terms of numbers, certainly healthier numbers at the moment. The girls have come back looking bright, looking sharp and ready for the challenge.”