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Aleksandr Ermakovich wants FC BATE Borisov to believe they are "capable of beating" Real Madrid CF as the Spanish titleholders arrive in Minsk for a match the hosts must win to maintain their slender hopes of progress.
BATE's maiden UEFA Champions League campaign has taught the Belarussian champions they have nothing to fear, and with two Group H games left they can still go through. "The main thing is to believe we are capable of playing against them, capable of playing well and capable of beating them," Ermakovich said. Team-mate Gennadi Bliznyuk added: "We will have our chances and, when they come, the most important thing is to make the most of them."
Neither striker Bliznyuk nor midfielder Ermakovich were available for BATE's 2-0 defeat in Madrid on Matchday 1, being ruled out through suspension and injury respectively. Indeed, the 33-year-old Ermakovich missed much of the autumn with a recurring knee problem, yet having returned on 9 November he is eager to make up for lost time. "It was really difficult watching that game," said the BATE captain. "We were group-stage debutants. It was very interesting to see how we would get on, and I thought our lads were great. They played good football. I'm glad we have not turned out to be whipping boys."
Draws against Juventus and FC Zenit St. Petersburg have proved, in Ermakovich's words, that BATE "can provide serious opposition for any of our opponents". He added: "Of course we could have done more in the games where we were in front [2-0 against Juventus and 1-0 against Zenit], but that's football and it's still great to play such teams and not look out of place."
BATE claimed their third successive league title a month ago and, with nothing to play for, their form tailed off in their last four domestic games. Matchday 5 will be a different proposition, however, with the side requiring a victory to remain in contention for the knockout rounds. "We don't need any motivation for Madrid," said Ermakovich. "This is one of the most successful clubs in the world. Everybody knows who Madrid are. If we still have a chance, we have to try and take it. We have to give our all and have no regrets afterwards. We have to focus and play with total commitment."
It is a sentiment echoed by Bliznyuk. "We have to show discipline in defence and work the ball quickly through midfield," said the 28-year-old. The cold weather in Belarus may not suit Madrid but it will hardly stop them threatening. "Madrid have very good ball control," Bliznyuk went on. "Their passing game is almost perfect. They use short and medium passes a lot and those amazing through balls into the area."
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