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FH wary of BATE reunion

Published: Sunday 27 June 2010, 12.10CET
For the second time in four seasons FH Hafnarfjördur have been drawn against FC BATE Borisov and coach Heimir Gudjónsson knows just how tough a test his Icelandic champions face.
by Stefán Stefánsson
from Reykjavik
FH wary of BATE reunion
FH parade their 2009 title ©FH Hafnarfjördur

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Published: Sunday 27 June 2010, 12.10CET

FH wary of BATE reunion

For the second time in four seasons FH Hafnarfjördur have been drawn against FC BATE Borisov and coach Heimir Gudjónsson knows just how tough a test his Icelandic champions face.

"I must admit I was not very impressed," was FH Hafnarfjördur coach Heimir Gudjónsson's immediate reaction on hearing his side had been drawn against FC BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

Gudjónsson harbours no ill feelings against the Belarussian champions, it is simply that he knows from first-hand experience just how good they are. The Icelandic titlewinners were also paired at this stage with BATE in 2007/08 when they were knocked out after losing 3-1 at home and drawing 1-1 away. BATE's familiarity with Icelandic football does not end there; they also got the better of Valur Reykjavík in the 2008/09 first qualifying round 3-0 on aggregate en route to becoming the first Belarussian side to reach the group stage.

Gudjónsson will be hoping it is a case of third-time lucky for Icelandic football. "I have been away to BATE twice and in a way good it is good to go there because the pitch is fine and the hotel great, but we worry more about the travelling," Gudjónsson said.

"Of course BATE weren't the best option for us because they are the strongest side and it also means we have the longest possible trip, but this is what came up and we just have to deal with it.

"It helps that we played them three years ago but it also helps them. I think we have a similar team as then. That FH team was strong and though we did not play well in the home game in Hafnarfjördur we did better in the away game."

FH have been the most successful team in Iceland since the turn of the century, winning all five of their titles since 2004 and missing out only in 2007 when Valur pipped them to top spot by a single point. They took time, however, to hit their stride this time round, collecting just four points from their opening four games. Ten points from their four games since, though, has allowed them to climb the table and they are also through to the quarter-finals of the Icelandic Cup.

Success means a hectic fixture list, but for Gudjónsson that is no cause for complaint. "I have no worries about a tough schedule," he said. "The players prefer to play games rather than spend all their time on the training field and I am sure busy times will only help us. FH are getting better and better.

"We have improved during the summer and have been playing well recently, but we still need to stay firmly on the ground and not think we are on a run. We simply must keep focused." A UEFA Champions League meeting with BATE will certainly help focus minds.

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BATE weren't the best option for us because they are the strongest side and it also means we have the longest possible trip, but this is what came up and we just have to deal with it
Heimir Gudjónsson
Last updated: 09/07/10 10.21CET

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