12 Feb 2018

Sport: Group B teams eye first Champs League playoff spot

1:34 pm on 12 February 2018

The OFC Champions League continues in Papeete today with all four teams in Group B vying to reach the knockout rounds for the first time.

The expanded playoff format this season features home and away semi-finals and a new quarterfinal stage, with two teams advancing from each of the four groups.

Solomon Warriors' coach Moses Toata believes home advantage makes Tahiti's AS Dragon the frontrunners to top the group.

"To be honest, I think the home ground will be a clear advantage. We're looking forward to compete but AS Dragon is the team to beat," he said.

Solomon Warriors coach Moses Toata.

Solomon Warriors coach Moses Toata. Photo: OFC via Phototek

The Warriors face Vanuatu's Erakor Golden Star first up this afternoon, who made their regional debut last year at the same at Stade Pater venue.

Erakor coach Obed Jimmy said their execution would need to be near-flawless to claim all three points.

"Our teamwork will need to be perfect," he said.

"Our passes, our shooting, when we defend and when we attack we need to be sure we are doing everything properly. We've been training for this event for the past month and I believe in the boys and what we can achieve tomorrow."

That opening clash is followed by an all francophone affair between AS Dragon and AS Lossi.

Tamatoa Tetauira played in Dragon's previous two campaigns as a teenager and will captain the home side on their return to Champions League for the first time since 2012-13.

"We're happy to be back in elite competition," said the 21 year-old Tahiti international.

"For every Polynesian player it is a huge honour to play in the Champions League. You're up against the best players in the region and every player wants to play the best to test themselves and to improve."

AS Lossi have been hit by the loss of a number of players for personal, professional reasons as well as injury.

Defender Pierre Kauma said that despite the absentees, the team is primed.

"The pitch will talk," he said.

"Our team will be ready to rise to the challenge. We may be without some key players but we are focussed on who is here and we are ready to play."

James Naka (L) and Nalkutan FC got the better of Fiji's Ba.

James Naka (L) and Nalkutan FC got the better of Fiji's Ba. Photo: OFC via Phototek

The Champions League kicked off in Vanuatu at the weekend with hosts Nalkutan FC beating Fiji's Ba 1-0 in their first match at regional level.

Meanwhile Papua New Guinea's Lae City Dwellers thrashed Tupapa Maraerenga 7-2 in the late game.