Manuel Veth –
Arsenal vs BATE – Thursday, February 21, 17:55GMT/18:55CET – Arsenal Stadium, London, England
Arsenal were the favourites going into this tie, and almost no betting page online would have suggested what happened in the first leg. BATE Borisov upset the apple-cart and won the game in Belarus 1-0 thanks to a 45′ minute buzzer beater by Stanislav Dragun.
Stanislav Dragun’s header on the stroke of half-time at the Borisov-Arena ended Arsenal’s record-equalling run of five successive UEFA Europa League clean sheets. It also proved enough to give BATE a famous victory in their first competitive outing of 2019, with the visitors suffering further woe as striker Alexandre Lacazette was sent off in the 85th minute, suspending him for this return leg.
It puts Arsenal in a difficult position ahead of the return leg, especially as they also lost star striker Alexandre Lacazette for the return leg thanks to a red card. Nonetheless, pages Points Bet Review still favour Arsenal for the second leg.
Last season Arsenal beat BATE Borisov 6-0 at home during the group stage of the campaign. With that result in mind, the Gunners should have the quality to once again handsomely defeat the Belarusians and advance to the round of 16 of the competition.
But Arsenal have been anything but consistent this season. The Gunners have dropped to fifth place in the English Premier League standings thanks to a resurgence Manchester United side that have raced past them in recent weeks. Of the last ten games in the EPL Arsenal have lost four and drawn once, sandwiched in-between was a 1-0 loss to United in the FA Cup and also the first leg defeat to BATE.
In other words, Arsenal need to be careful when approaching the second leg. The Belarusians, after all, are no pushovers and well rested during their in-between season break — Belarus is still on the old Soviet league calendar in which the league is played from Spring to Fall rather than Fall to Spring of the following year.
Hence, BATE went into the game against Arsenal without any competitive match-fitness. Usually, deemed a major disadvantage BATE, however, seemed well rested and prepared by head Aleksey Baga.
Baga, in fact, is the latest coaching talent to emerge from the BATE football factory. The 38-year-old was preceded by Viktor Goncharenko, who is deemed one of the greatest tacticians in the post-Soviet space. BATE are one of the best run clubs in the post-Soviet space with a big focus on producing their own talent and being self-sustainable.
Independently run, the club has dominated Belarusian football and won the last 13 titles in a row. Internationally, the Belarusians have upset the apple-cart on previous occasions and among others have managed to defeat Bayern 3-1 during the 2012/13 Champions League campaign.
Arsenal were, therefore, just the latest scalp added to the list of big clubs defeated in Belarus. The return leg, however, will be an entirely different proposition with Arsenal favourites to go through to the next round.
Arsenal vs BATE – Players to look out for:
Shkodran Mustafi #20 – Arsenal
BATE Borisov have defeated English opposition on just two occasions. Both times Shkodran Mustafi was on the pitch. Ten years ago BATE managed to beat Everton in the Europa League in a game that was Mustafi’s competitive debut. The then 17-year-old came on as a substitute in the second half. Mustafi will attempt to improve his record against BATE on Thursday. In fact, the defender will be key for the London based club. An away goal by BATE could make things difficult for the Gunners, and the German international will have to be on guard to keep the Belarusians from the scoresheet.
Aleksandr Hleb #11 – BATE Borisov
It is true! Aleksandr Hleb still plays. Many expected that the 37-year-old would retire following BATE’s championship in the fall. But the midfielder has decided to continue his career and will now return to the Emirates Stadium where he played a large part of his career. The playmaker has played 131 games for Arsenal before moving on to Barcelona in 2008. In the first leg he was a crucial player for BATE and will once again be key for Borisov in the second leg.
Arsenal vs BATE – Match Stats
- Arsenal have won only two of the 12 UEFA competition ties in which they were defeated away in the first leg, most recently overcoming Porto 5-0 in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League round of 16 after a 2-1 loss in Portugal.
- Arsenal’s one previous round of 32 tie came last season against Swedish debutants Östersund, Wenger’s side progressing 4-2 on aggregate after winning the away first leg 3-0 but losing the London return 1-2.
- BATE’s record in UEFA competition when winning the first leg at home is a mirror image of Arsenal’s, with just two defeats in 12 ties, although both of those have been after 1-0 victories, with 0-3 away reverses following against Irish clubs Bohemians (2003/04) and Dundalk (2016/17) in the UEFA Champions League qualifying phase. All 12 of those ties took place during the summer months.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Arsenal vs BATE – 2-0
Arsenal vs BATE – Lineups
Cech – Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi – Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Torreira, Maitland-Niles – Iwobi, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan
Head Coach: Unai Emery
Shcherbitsky – Filipovic, Filipenko, Volkov, Rios – Hleb, Dragun, Baga – Stasevich, Skavych, Milic
Head Coach: Aleksey Baga
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.