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Lupe ready for Champions League challenge

Samoan club football champions, Lupe o le Soaga, are embracing their tough Group D draw for the 2020 OFC Champions League in Tahiti next week.

The team fly out on Thursday, ahead of their first match against hosts AS Venus next Tuesday Samoan time.

Head coach Fa'aeanu'u Paul Ualesi said his team are excited to play in what will be very high-level matches.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a really good challenge for our team,” he said. 

“Not only that, but it’s good exposure for the boys as well.”

No club from Samoa has ever won a game during a Champions League groups stage, and Lupe o le Soaga will be hard-pressed to break that drought this time around.

After the match against AS Venus, the reigning Tahitian national champions, Fa'aeanu'u’s team will play Fijian national champions Ba FC next Thursday Samoan time, before their final game against New Zealand’s Auckland City.

The Kiwis have won the continental title a record nine times, and will be heavy favourites given their current form in leading the New Zealand national league.

Fa'aeanu'u expects adapting to the speed of the game at the higher level to be the toughest challenge for his side, but they are very excited to play regional heavyweights Auckland City for the first time ever.

Lupe o le Soaga qualified for the Champions League Group stage thanks to a win and a draw in their two matches in the preliminary tournament last month.

“The qualifier was the best way to gauge our current form, of players and the team as a whole,” Fa'aeanu'u said. 

“Now we are trying to work on our strengths and weaknesses.

“The weather has not really helped our preparations, but we’re not making that an excuse.”

One Samoan has already left his mark on the 2020 Champions League Group Stage – forward Vito Laloata was part of Papua New Guinean club Hekari United’s campaign in Group A.

Laloata, who was recruited from Lupe o le Soaga after shining for Samoa at the 2019 Pacific Games, repaid the Hekari coaches for starting him in their final game against ABM Galaxy by assisting the first goal in a 2-1 win.

“We were so happy for him,” Fa'aeanu'u said.

“I think some of the scouts are really looking for our Samoan boys now, they can see they’ve got a lot of potential.”

Hekari’s win wasn’t enough for them to make it through Group A, so Lupe o le Soaga will hope to go one better with a history making performance in Tahiti next week.

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