The Armenian league season has reached the halfway stage with FC Pyunik looking well on course for a sixth successive title.
The champions have operated a policy of exclusively using homegrown players this season and they have been rewarded for what appeared a bold move in emphatic style. With 14 rounds gone Vardan Minasyan's side lie an impressive eleven points clear of perennial rivals FC MIKA, having won all but one of their games - a 2-2 draw against FC Kilikia.
Their focus has temporarily shifted, however, as the Armenian season is suspended for a month to allow sides to prepare for European endeavours. Indeed, for all their dominance on the domestic front, many doubt Pyunik's ability to play at the highest level, highlighting their inexperience and occasional wastefulness in front of goal.
Nevertheless, despite being without injured duo Robert Arzumanyan and Boris Melkonyan they held Moldovan outfit FC Sheriff to a goalless draw in the opening leg of their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie on 11 June. MIKA and FC Banants both start their UEFA Cup campaigns tonight with the aim of adding some gloss to an otherwise disappointing season.
Before the campaign started many expected the pair to contend for the title but their challenges have never really got off the ground. Instead, they will more than likely have to content themselves with the pursuit of second. Both clubs have shown signs of form this term but have been upset by inconsistency, MIKA notably slipping up against FC Ulis Yerevan in their second outing.
MIKA have already brought in Armenian international David Grigoryan during the mid-season break as they attempt to strengthen, and it is likely to be a busy month in the transfer market, especially at Kilikia. The league strugglers have lost the services of Artashes Bagdasaryan and the Erzrumyan brothers - Nshan and Sergey - are expected to follow soon.
Kilikia currently lie sixth, five points ahead of bottom side Ulis who are on the up after ending a run of eight consecutive defeats. Second-from-bottom FC Shirak could therefore be in danger of relegation as they struggle with off-the-field problems. Things look more positive at FC Ararat Yerevan and FC Gandzasar Kapan, with the former fourth and Gandzasar looking formidable at home.
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