PA Sport

Alexander Hleb and 13 successive league titles – BATE Borisov in focus

Alexander Hleb and 13 successive league titles – BATE Borisov in focus
By PA Sport

13/02/2019 at 15:02Updated 13/02/2019 at 16:30

Former Gunners midfielder Hleb, 37, is likely to feature on Thursday.

Arsenal return to Europa League action as the first leg of their round of 32 clash with BATE Borisov takes place in Belarus on Thursday night.

With Gunners boss Unai Emery recently conceding his side are underdogs for a top-four Premier League finish, winning the Europa League could present Arsenal with their best chance of securing a return to the Champions League.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at BATE and the challenge they pose to Arsenal’s continental progression.

Form

BATE have been dominant in the Belarusian Premier League in recent times, lifting the title in all of the last 13 seasons.

Their domestic campaign ended in December when they secured the crown once more as they finished ahead of rivals Dinamo Minsk on goal difference.

With no competitive fixture since December 13, the challenge of upsetting the odds and beating Arsenal take an even greater hit.

European pedigree

BATE Borisov’s Aleksandar Filipovic in action at Stamford Bridge earlier this season

Although their domestic dominance has allowed BATE to enter European competitions over the last decade, they have had very little success.

This will be only their third appearance in the knockout stages of the Europa League and they got there by finishing below Chelsea in Group L.

BATE and Arsenal were drawn together in Group H in this tournament last season, with the Premier League side winning 4-2 in Borisov and 6-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

Familiar face

Alexander Hleb spent three season at Arsenal

Former Arsenal man Alexander Hleb is likely to turn out for BATE – with the 37-year-old currently enjoying his fifth stint at the club.

Hleb, arguably Belarus’ most famous footballing export, played 130 games across three seasons in north London.

He started the 2006 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona before moving to the Nou Camp two years later.

Manager

Bate manager Alyaksey Baha and Chelsea counterpart Maurizio Sarri

Alyaksey Baha will be in the opposing dugout to Emery over the course of the tie.

The former defender made over 130 appearances for BATE during two spells of a career which saw him capped at under-21 level for Belarus.

A hometown boy, he took charge at the Borisov Arena in July 2018 and continued the success of his predecessors by collecting the league title.

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