It's Champions League football, but not as we know it. That won’t stop Crusaders Newtownabbey Strikers from trying to transfer their domestic dominance to the European stage next month.
And they will have home advantage on their side as they try to do so.
For the first time Northern Ireland will play host to a group stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League after the Strikers successfully campaigned to be awarded the right to stage the mini-tournament.
The Crusaders girls will take on the might of former European champions Duisburg of Germany, as well as top Scottish side Glasgow City and Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia from August 5-10.
The Strikers won the double in Northern Ireland last season and currently lead the way in the Davisons Frudles Women’s Premier League once again, but their squad, which boasts current and former Northern Ireland internationals in Nicole Connolly, Elaine Roden, Sara Booth, Lynsey Patterson, Angela Platt, Julie Nelson, Danielle McDowell and Helen McKenna (pictured) will face three extremely tough assignments.
It is only two years since Duisburg were crowned European champions and their line-up includes international striker Inka Grings who has scored 57 goals for Germany and was last year’s top scorer in the European Championships.
Scottish champions Glasgow City will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds to secure the one qualifying berth in the last 32 of the competition given their performances in the UEFA tournament over the past few seasons.
Two seasons ago they lost 1-0 in the last 16 of the competition to Zvezda-2005 from Russia, who went all the way to the Champions League final, where they were defeated by Duisburg.
Match schedule: Thursday August 5: Duisburg v Slovan Bratislava (4pm), Glasgow City v Crusaders Newtownabbey Strikers (7.30pm), Mill Meadow, Castledawson. Saturday August 7: Slovan Bratislava v Glasgow City (3pm), Duisburg v Crusaders Newtownabbey Strikers (6pm), Ballymena Showgrounds. Tuesday August 10: Glasgow City v Duisburg, Ballymena Showgrounds, Crusaders Newtownabbey Strikers v Slovan Bratislava, Stangmore Park (both 5pm).