FC Pyunik are sure their academy graduates can come up trumps again as the new Armenian season starts this week with the first cup fixtures of 2008.
While the league campaign will not kick-off until April, the eight top-division teams start their seasons on Friday and Saturday with the opening matches of their two-leg first round games, and while they have lost a substantial proportion of their best players since lifting their seventh successive league title in 2007, Yerevan titans Pyunik are limbering up for more success. The club have continued their policy of blooding youngsters by introducing a new generation to the first team. Coach Armen Gyulbudagyants said: "It's a big chance for our youngsters. The majority of our guys represent the Armenian national team at different levels. They have experience of playing in very important games so we will battle for a top place in the league."
Former Pyunik coach Samvel Petrosyan, meanwhile, is focused solely on the cup at the moment, having led FC Gandzasar to an encouraging fifth-placed finish last term. Four more signings have raised their Georgian contingent to six while they will continue to rely on Brazilian Leandro Santos up front and Romanians Virgil Marşavela and Constantin Paunescu may also stay in Kapan. "We haven't announced our goals for the season," said the former Armenia Under-17 coach. "We are only thinking about the cup at the moment. We are formidible at home, so we will battle for a place in the UEFA Cup as there is always a chance in two-leg cup ties. The club board has made major investments in the team and it is payback time for us."
Five-time cup winners FC MIKA are also ambitious, with coach Arkadiy Andreasyan hungry for a first league title and perhaps another cup for the Ashtarak side. "MIKA always have high goals," said Andreasyan. "The coming season is no exception. We are ready to fight for the title and want to play in the cup final. We are creating a new team here but our goals remain the same." Having re-appointed Varuzhan Sukiasyan as their coach just two weeks ago, FC Ararat Yerevan will be lucky to create a workable team in time to compete for silverware. "It's going to be extremely difficult to compete against leading clubs, but we won't give up," sighed Sukiasyan. "We have lost experienced players and haven't signed any replacements."
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