BATE Borisov have featured in Europe every season since 2003, but only once in all that time have they managed to make it past the group stage of either the Europa or the Champions League. That was back in 2012-13, when they dropped into the Europa League Round of 32 by finishing third in their Champions League group (mirroring exactly what Chelsea managed that season). Chelsea of course went on to win the Europa that season while BATE fell at that first knockout hurdle, losing 1-0 on aggregate to Fenerbahce.
If BATE want to make it at least as far as they did six years ago, they’re going to have to pick up the pace. Last matchday’s home defeat to PAOK was certainly not in the script and now they face back-to-back games against Chelsea. New BATE head coach Alyaksey Baha knows that any points out of those two games would be a bonus. In fact, he’s just hoping to do better than the last time they came to London, losing 6-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates in last year’s Europa League group stage — Olivier Giroud, still a Gunner back then, scored twice, even.
“We have followed all the games Chelsea have played. Videoton played well, had plenty of chances and could have got a different result. They are an example for us. We analyse the games (against Arsenal) so we learnt from our mistakes. Now, a year later we are here in England, in London, playing against a top club, and we hope for a better result this time.
“It is kind of good news that Hazard is not playing, but it will still be a very strong line-up. Chelsea is the kind of team with so many players that will be capable of replacing Hazard with no problem
“Our season started much earlier than here. But obviously the speed of the game and the level is so much higher in England, and the players here are on a different level. We shouldn’t be discussing any advantage that we have.”
-Alyaksey Baha; source: West London Sport
The Belorussian league plays a spring-fall schedule, and BATE are well on track for their 13th consecutive league title. The real challenge for them is thus Europe, and today, they will have nothing to lose. That can be a very solid recipe for an upset.