Warriors not in AFC Cup to party
AFC CUP GROUP E
WARRIORS FC v PERSIPURA JAYAPURA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
The AFC Cup hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Singapore sides in recent times.
Over the last two years, representatives from the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League have failed to progress from the group stages, managing only six wins out of 24 matches.
But, if anyone is expecting Warriors FC to simply make up the numbers this season, coach Alex Weaver will be quick to issue a defiant response.
"We aren't going to turn up on the pitch and have a party, if that's what you're suggesting," he retorted, when asked about his side's ambition ahead of tonight's opening Group E clash against Indonesia Super League outfit Persipura Jayapura at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"Maybe there's less pressure given the lack of success Singaporean teams have had in the competition over the past few years, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves every day to be at our best.
"We've done well to get here, we're a good side and we're certainly looking to get a positive result."
Unlike their opponents, who have yet to play a competitive fixture this year, the Warriors already have two matches under their belt, after beating Myanmar's Yadanarbon on penalties in the first stage of the AFC Champions League qualifiers, before losing 3-0 to China's Guangzhou R&F in the next round.
Weaver is determined not to let that perceived advantage allow for complacency to creep into his players.
"We've played two games but, in terms of our build-up to the new campaign, we're still very much in pre-season," the Englishman explained.
"To be honest, I don't think it's an advantage or a disadvantage.
"We're coming up against a team that reached the semi-finals of the tournament last year, which tells you a lot about their quality."
Persipura certainly raised a few eyebrows last term when they reached the last four of the AFC Cup, before falling to eventual champions Al Qadsia.
They may have a new coach in Brazilian Osvaldo Lessa, who was appointed following the departure of Jacksen Tiago to Penang, but nothing has changed regarding their ambition to make an impact on the continental stage.
"It's very simple," said Lessa. "Last year, we reached the semi-finals so we want to do better this year - we are aiming to reach the final.
"I've watched the Warriors play in their past two games and they are a very good side.
"But Persipura have one little advantage of playing in the AFC Cup regularly over the past few years. This experience could prove to be very important."
The other two teams in Group E are India's Bengaluru and Maldivian side Maziya.
*The writer is a freelancer.
ALSO PLAYING TONIGHT:
GROUP F - Kitchee FC (Hong Kong) v Balestier Khalsa