Chelsea vs BATE – Thursday, October 25, 20:00BST/21:00 CEST – Stamford Bridge, London, United Kingdom
For the first time in history, Chelsea will host Belarusian opposition. Belarus’ record champions BATE Borisov, however, will not be unfamiliar with travelling to London. While BATE’s first visit to England – at Everton on matchday six of the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage – resulted in a 1-0 win, but last season they were beaten 6-0 by Arsenal in London, also in their final group fixture, having already lost 2-4 to the Gunners at home.
Chelsea, in the meantime, face uncertain waters in this Europa League season. But while they are more accustomed to playing in Europe’s premier competition, the UEFA Champions League, head coach Maurizio Sarri has taken the Europa League relatively serious. A pair of 1-0 wins – away at PAOK, at home to Vidi – have put Chelsea in command of the group.
It is a fine line Sarri is walking in this season’s Europa League season. On the one hand, the competition allows the 59-year-old Italian to rotate his side, on the other hand, Chelsea know that winning the competition would qualify them for next season’s Champions League. With the top five in England in tight contention and only four Champions League spots available winning this trophy could, therefore, become a necessity for Chelsea to return to Europe’s premier competition.
Returning to the UCL would be important also from a financial standpoint. The long-time owner, and Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich has contemplated selling the club after the United Kingdom has denied him a working visa. Abramovich, reportedly, is seeking €3 billion in a potential sale of the club – a steep sum, that would be more easy to justify should the Blues play in the Champions League.
It is the sort of worries BATE are far removed from. Trailing Chelsea by three points after following up a 2-0 win in Hungary with a 1-4 home defeat against their visitors from Greece BATE are more concerned of staying alive in this competition. Two games against giants Chelsea means that Vidi or PAOK could open up a significant gap between themselves and BATE.
At the same time, BATE have history when it comes to giant killing. In 2012 the Belarusians defeated Bayern München in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Guided by the young Viktor Goncharenko, who now coaches CSKA Moscow, BATE were one of the surprise clubs of the competition that season.
Today they are coached by another young coach, Aleksey Baga. The 37-year-old has been in charge of the club since the beginning of this season after working for seven years as an assistant at the club. It is a typical line of succession at BATE, who like to promote their coaches from within the system. Baga certainly got the job done domestically. With 24 games gone this season already BATE are nine points clear of second-place Soligorsk and on course to win their 13th Belarusian title in a row.
That title is the club’s priority. Success in Europe, in the meantime, is seen as the cherry on the cake. Hence, while BATE will try to challenge Chelsea, the Blues will be massive favourites to win the game on Thursday.
Chelsea vs BATE – Players to look out for:
Olivier Giroud #18 – Chelsea
Olivier Giroud has mostly acted as a backup to striker Alvaro Morata this season. Nonetheless, the French national team striker plays an important role at Chelsea. The 32-year-old’s play is not just defined through his goals but more for space, he creates for the attacking midfielders that play further down the field. As a result, Giroud has not found the net yet in nine matches for Chelsea but has already four assists to his name. That said strikers are defined by goals, and there is a good chance Giroud will finally score against BATE on Thursday.
Nikolai Signevich #13 – BATE Borisov
BATE Borisov are not defined by that one goal machine either. Instead, the goalscoring duties are distributed among many players. One of those players is Nikolai Signevich. The 26-year-old 194cm tall striker is a typical power forward, who works well as a wall player for the Belarusian champions. In 18 domestic games, Signevich has scored five goals and added another two in six Europa League games.
Chelsea vs BATE – Match Stats
- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud scored for Arsenal in both group games against BATE in last season’s UEFA Europa League.
- Chelsea ended a run of three successive European home draws with their 1-0 win against Vidi on matchday two.
- Chelsea have not lost a European group game at Stamford Bridge since Basel defeated them 2-1 there in September 2013; the 12 such fixtures since have yielded nine wins and three draws.
- The Borisov club’s away record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W3 D3 L4, the victory at Vidi having ended a four-game winless sequence.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Chelsea vs BATE – 5-1
Chelsea vs BATE – Lineups
Kepa – Alonso, Cahill, Christensen, Zappacosta – Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Barkley – Pedro, Giroud, Willian
Shcherbitski – Polyakov, Buljat, Milunovic, Baga – Volodyko, Ivanic – Stasevich, Signevich Gordeychuk
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 works for the Bundesliga 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.