When Sébastien Labayen took up coaching duties with Tahitian club side AS Tefana he gave himself a firm target to aim for – an OFC Champions League title in three years.
“When I took charge of this group the objective was to win the Champions League by the end of three years,” he said.
“In 2015 we were eliminated in the group stage, last year we were semi-finalists. This year we are openly aiming for victory in the final of this competition.”
This year marks the end of that three year self-set term and Labayen is confident that the format of the 2017 edition of the Champions League is just one thing in favour of the side achieving their goal.
“The format suits us very well in the sense that we have the advantage of playing at home,” he said.
“Beyond the fact that we are playing at home, which is always an advantage, it simplifies things in terms of logistics as we avoid any long journeys, and the players don’t need to take leave.
“From a sporting perspective, the public can now discover the football we play in a competition different to the domestic one.”
As the only side in Group D of the OFC Champions League to have previously appeared in the competition, AS Tefana have an obvious edge over their opponents.
And it’s an edge Labayen hopes to exploit.
“It’s clear that the experience we have accumulated during these last few years is very precious, most notably in the players’ mentality,” he explained.
“The players are better prepared to deal with the pressure that comes with this type of high level competition.
“But still our biggest advantage is playing at home and we’re able to take the role of group favourites because of it.”
Labayen said one of the most difficult aspects will be managing the turnaround of the match days given the importance attached to each game.
“Only one team from this group can qualify for the semi-finals and it is up to us to perform in the three matches because each encounter will be decisive,” he said.
“And in this format, there generally isn’t any room for mistakes and so what is imperative for us, is that we win our first match.
“That will put us in the best spirits and frame of mind for the next games.”
AS Tefana will open their 2017 OFC Champions League campaign at Stade Pater in Tahiti on Saturday 11 March against Erakor Golden Star at 9pm.