While the past seven seasons have been one-horse races, the 2008 campaign has brought an unexpected levelling of competition, and plenty of shock results. However, the final reckoning looks sure to be between Pyunik and Ararat – they meet on the last day, at Pyunik – who are separated by three points and a massive difference in footballing philosophy.
Pyunik have continued their policy of blooding young players around seasoned duo Sargis Hovsepyan and Karen Dokhoyan. With an average age of 24, they have the youngest squad in the league, with president Karen Harutyunyan saying: "There is no sense signing foreign players. You have to give youth a chance, not only for your own club but also for the Armenian national team."
Of Vardan Minasyan's latest crop of youngsters, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Karlen Mkrtchyan, Artur Yedigaryan, Gevorg Ghazaryan and Grigor Meliksetyan have all become senior internationals, with the coach explaining: "We have almost 400 young players at the Pyunik academy who can make Armenian football better. We have pinned our future hopes on young players and have been proved right."
Pyunik's intentions are undoubtedly noble, but theirs is not the only way. Ararat's youth academy is yet to become as successful as Pyunik's, so in their attempt to win a first title since 1993, Varuzhan Sukiasyan returned for a second spell at the helm at the start of the season and set about importing talent – with Brazilians providing much of their strength.
Marcos Pizzeli is the club and the league's top scorer and even took Armenian citizenship this year. Juliano Gimenez is their central defensive anchor while playmaker Renato de Morães became captain following an injury to Artur Minasyan, one of three senior Armenian-born internationals in the squad along with Vahagn Minasyan and Hrayr Mkoyan.
To the death
"We will fight until the last and hope we can finish top," said Ararat assistant coach Kamalyan. "Nothing is lost and Ararat will try to prove that in the coming fixtures." Minasyan added: "This season has turned out to be very interesting and I believe the tension will continue until the very last match. Pyunik are determined to win an eighth successive title."
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