Warriors eyeing strong start to AFC Cup campaign

S.League champions Warriors FC will be hoping to get their 2015 AFC Cup campaign off to a positive start when they take on Group E opponents Persipura Jayapura on Tuesday.

The Warriors were initially bidding to qualify for the AFC Champions League but after seeing off Myanmar’s Yadanarbon in the first preliminary round, they had their dreams of playing in Asia’s premier club competition ended by a 3-0 loss to Chinese giants Guangzhou R&F.

However, continental football still awaits them in the form of the AFC Cup and they have been drawn in Group E to face Bengaluru, Maziya and Persipura, who they lock horns with at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Given the nature of the tournament, Warriors boss Alex Weaver is aware of how crucial a strong start will be to their hopes of advancing to the knockout round and has challenged his players to get a positive result against their Indonesian opponents.

“It’s the first game of the group stage and it’s important to do well,” he said.

“There’s perhaps not so much pressure on us to win but we’re coming up against a team that reached the semi-finals of the tournament last year, which tells you a lot about the quality of their team.

“Maybe we feel less pressure given the lack of success Singaporean teams have enjoyed in the competition over the past few years.

“But we put ourselves under lots of pressure every day to be at our best.

“We’ve done well to get here, we’re a good side and we want to get a positive result.”

Nonetheless, the Englishman did brush off suggestions that his side had a slight edge given they already have two competitive games under their belt, while Persipura will be playing their first on Tuesday.

“To be honest, I don’t know if it’s necessarily an advantage,” Weaver explained.

“We’ve played two games but in terms of the structure of our programme, we’re still very much in pre-season.

“I don’t think it’s an advantage or a disadvantage.”

Meanwhile, Warriors midfielder Thomas Beattie is relishing the prospect of testing themselves against quality teams across the continent, especially after being crowned the S.League’s number one side in 2014.

“Playing in continental competition is great experience,” he said. “We worked hard last year to win the S.League and this is a good reward.

“It’s a chance to see where we stand against the better teams of the region, and it’s always nice to travel with the team and experience the different footballing cultures that are on offer.

“We’ve already had good experiences in Myanmar and China [in the Champions League qualifiers] so I’m looking forward to more of it.”

But for now, the immediate task is a home game against a Persipura side with no shortage of experience playing in AFC competitions, and Beattie remains firmly focused on getting Warriors’ campaign off to a strong start.

“We’ve seen a lot of footage of Persipura and we know they’re a strong and athletic side,” the ex-Hougang United man revealed.

“We’re well prepared and we know what to expect from them, so we’re going out there to try and get the result”

Following Tuesday’s clash, Warriors kick off the new S.League season on Sunday evening when they take on Singapore Cup champions Balestier Khalsa, who are also competition in the AFC Cup.

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