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Champions League 2015/16 profiles: BATE Borisov

Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov have been handed one of the toughest pools in this year’s Champions League, with defending champions Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen and Roma in their way.

However, the minnows are a tempting 5/1 shout with Coral to draw with the German team in their opener on September 16th, and are outsiders at 16/1 to qualify for the knockout rounds.

Domestic league: Belarusian Premier League

How they qualified: As domestic champions for the last nine years, BATE were entered into the Champions League second qualifying round, where they met and beat Irish side Dundalk 2-1 across two legs. They then had to knock out Videoton and Partizan Belgrade.

Best Champions League era performance: This will be the club’s fifth participation in the competition’s group stage, but have never progressed.

At their first attempt in 2008/09, they did manage to get a point off Juventus both home and away. In 2011/12, they drew with AC Milan, but their best performance and position was the following season, as they claimed a shock win over Bayern Munich as well as Lille to finish third.

Coach: BATE’s boss is their former midfielder for a decade Alyaksandr Yermakovich. The 40-year-old became the club’s assistant manager following retirement as a player in 2008, and took over from his former teammate Viktor Goncharenko in 2013.

Ins and outs: The Belarusian’s re-signed perhaps their most famous son Alexander Hleb in August for a second time, while midfielder Nemanja Nikolic and attacker Aleksandar Jevtic were also brought in this summer to bolster their ranks. No player of note left in the last transfer window.

BRITAIN SOCCER

Familiar face: Former Arsenal and Barcelona star Hleb is the one player to really stick out from this squad.

Key player: Hleb again will be BATE’s key source particularly in attack.

One(s) to watch: New signings Nikolic and Jevtic, both internationals for Montenegro and Serbia respectively, will be able to give the unfancied Group E minnows some hope of gaining points. Belarus-capped trio Mikhail Gordeichuk, Ihar Stasevich and keeper Syarhey Chernik also add some quality.

Emerging talent: Mikalay Signevich, 23, is a young tall forward that can use his height to cause opposition problems, while defender Maksim Valadzko is also one to watch. Both are already capped at senior level for Belarus and can gain moves to bigger teams in Europe if they impress in the group.

CL group and fixtures:

Group E

v Leverkusen (Away), September 16th
v Roma (Home), September 29th
v Barcelona (Home), October 20th
v Barcelona (Away), November 4th
v Leverkusen (Home), November 24th
v Roma (Away), December 9th