By George Rinaldi
With the Champions League in full-swing and Europe’s elite preparing to lock horns again for another round of thrills and spills, there are of course some teams who enter the fray through the side entrance: unknown, timid and a tad inconspicuous.
George Rinaldi returns with a rundown to make sure you are up to scratch with your Bulgarian lingo, your Slovakian half-time snack and your dark horse player to get you those bonus fantasy league points!
BATEer Than All The Rest: A closer look at Belarusian side Bate
Name: Bate Borisov
Nickname: Zholto-Sinle (Yellow-Blues) Founded: 1973
Stadium: Borisov Arena- 13,000 capacity
The one to tune in for: (A) Shakhtar Donetsk (November 5th 2014)
Manager: Alyaksandr Yermakovich
BATE play their domestic matches in the Belarusian Premier League. With only one Champions League place up for grabs, the 2013 season saw Yermakovich and co. earn BATE’s tenth league title and a spot in the qualification stages on the way to meeting Europe’s big guns.
They dominate the league scene having won the title every season since 2006. The season is played out between April and November and the format is much like that of the Scottish Premier League. After the initial and classified ‘normal’ stage, the league breaks into two, a Championship and Relegation round. It didn’t end so competitively however, as when the 32 game season finished, BATE were nine points clear. It’s been a much different season this time around though. It’s tight at the top. When we say tight, we mean tight.
BATE are battling it out with Dinamo Minsk for the title and that place in the Champions League for next season.
How did they get here?
Having won their respective league, Yermakovich’s men entered into the second qualifying round of the competition, pitting them with Skenderbeu (probably the best named team around). The Albanian side managed a 0-0 draw at the Borisov Arena, but a 1-1 draw at home meant BATE went through on away goals. It was a result that then forced the Yellow-Blues to meet Debrecan, who outplayed the Belarusians and won the first leg 1-0.
It was to be a comeback of dreams for BATE though, who also went down 1-0 early on in the second leg meaning they needed three goals to win.
Cue late drama as Krivets netted in the 94th minute to make it 3-2 and send the supporters into raptures.
Of course, there was no time to celebrate with the big play-off match just around the corner. Slovan Bratislava were to be the test and a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg saw the advantage swing in BATE’s favour.
The second leg performance was one they had been waiting for, defeating their opponents 3-1 to see them safely into the group stages of the Champions League.
Who will they meet?
BATE should have no complaints with the group they were drawn in, with the best side being Portuguese outfit Porto. Alongside that, stuttering Athletic Club and Shakhtar Donetsk. Despite Donetsk’s dominant display over BATE that saw them win 7-0, Borisov are not out of the group just yet. Sitting two points behind the Ukrainians in third, the return match onNovember 5th will prove decisive on either playing knockout football in the Champions League or in the Europa League. If the 7-0 performance is anything to go by, it’s likely they’ll be playing Thursday night football very soon. The final game against Athletic will arguably be a decider for that third place spot.
Results so far and fixtures to come
Wednesday 17/09/14 Porto 6-0 BATE Tuesday 30/09/14 BATE 2-1 Athletic Club Tuesday 21/10/14 BATE 0-7 Shakhtar Donetsk
Wednesday 05/11/14 Shakhtar Donetsk v BATE Tuesday 25/11/14 BATE v Porto Wednesday 10/12/14 Athletic Club v BATE
Belarusian chant to yell at the TV
Сьпявайце для жоўта-сініх! (Roughly translates this BATE chant to ‘Sing for the Yellow-Blues!’)
Half time snack – Draniki
Don’t let the name fool you, Draniki is one of the most popular dishes in Belarus and rightly so. The meal is a rich and flavoursome plate of potato pancakes. Done purposely with floury potatoes – or bulba – gives the food a fluffy texture adored by the locals.
Player for your UCL Fantasy Team
Not the greatest side to pick up under the radar points, but midfielder Aleksandr Kanitski has managed to rack up 11 points despite his side going down 6-0 and 7-0. He is the 30th highest rated midfielder for points thus far and, get this, he’s above Toni Kroos, Oscar and Yaya Toure. Worth the punt for his price alone.
Do you think Bate Borisov can qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League?