Beattie: ‘Playing at the Emirates is special’

Defender looks ahead to Champions League tie and derby clash as Gunners switch stadiums

Thursday, 17th March — By Catherine Etoe

Arsenal WFC v FC Barcelona: Group C - UEFA Women's Champions League

Jen Beattie is relishing taking on Wolfsburg and Spurs at the Emirates Stadium. PHOTO: DAVID PRICE/ARSENAL FC

“WE have a lot of exciting games ahead,” said Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall this week – and the Swede was not exaggerating.

As the clock ticks down on the season, the Gunners are still scrapping for titles on three fronts, kicking off with a visit from Coventry United in the last eight of the FA Cup tomorrow (Friday).

But two glamour ties also await, and they will see Eidevall’s side swap Meadow Park for the Emirates Stadium.

On Wednesday, Arsenal will go toe-to-toe with German giants Wolfsburg in the home leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

Three days later, Eidevall’s table-topping side return to the Emirates to face north London rivals Spurs in a must-win clash as the fight with Chelsea for the FA Women’s Super League title goes down to the wire.

And having played in both competitions at the main stadium already this season, defender Jen Beattie is relishing the prospect of her team’s return to the Emirates.

“It’s unreal,” the Scot said. “The pitch is impeccable, the facilities are top notch, it’s just special, and when you play for Arsenal it’s a special feeling to play at the Emirates.

“You watch the big Premier League games and they’re playing at the best stadiums, and it’s what you want to do as a player – it’s the most exciting thing.”

Alongside Arsenal, Juventus, Wolfsburg, Barcelona, Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are all set to host Champions League ties at their men’s stadiums in the coming weeks, with a world record crowd for a women’s game expected at the Nou Camp.

Beattie, who has played in Scotland, England, France and Australia, is is well aware of the impact that big-game nights under the lights and derby days at major stadiums such as the Emirates can have on the profile of her sport.

She said: “It adds to the matchday experience for kids and families to come and see us play at cool stadiums and really have a feel for what Arsenal’s about.

“The branding is there, it’s all about how it feels to be a fan in that stadium and it’s amplified for our women’s team when we play there.

“It’s not just great for us, it’s great for the fans, and it’s great for the exposure of women’s football as well.”

Scotland vice-captain Beattie, who counts herself as a fan of Mikel Arteta’s current crop of Arsenal players, says she grew up admiring the 2003/04 “Arsenal Invincibles”.

The 30-year-old also keenly followed the cup-winning exploits of the women’s team in the Vic Akers era before joining the club in 2009 and going on to enjoy four trophy-laden seasons.

Now in her second spell at Arsenal, Glasgow-born Beattie’s long association with the club means she is under no illusions how important the north London derby will be to its fans, too.

“It’s a huge game and a big rivalry on our part so it’s great it’s being played at the Emirates and will hopefully draw as big a crowd as possible.

“We’re fighting for the league so it’ll be an intense, competitive match, but hopefully we’ll come out on top and the Arsenal fans will be happy. Every game is just as important as each other now – when you reach the business end of the season every game is a cup final.”

• Tickets for Wolfsburg on March 23 and Spurs on March 26 are available at £12 adults, and £6 concessions, while a multi-game ticket for £20/£10 will get fans into both ties. For more information visit arsenal.com

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