Debreceni VSC host FC BATE Borisov on the back of their first league defeat in 15 months but a hard-earned 1-1 draw in Belarus gives Elemér Kondás's team grounds for optimism ahead of the second leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
For Debrecen, winning has evolved with habitual ease yet they suffered a rude awakening when unfancied Kaposvári Rákóczi FC toppled the six-time Hungarian champions on Saturday, condemning them to their first league reverse since May 2011. Club owner Gábor Szima attributed the setback to a conflict in interests, however, as Debrecen prioritise their European adventure with a proud nation clinging to their success.
"With the games coming thick and fast we weren't prepared to put the players through a 12-hour round bus trip, arriving at dawn following a match played in 35 degrees," said Szima. "The players aren't machines. We think it is in the interests of Debrecen and Hungarian football that our team can be as successful as possible in Europe this season."
Ibrahim Sidibe looked to have secured Debrecen victory in Belarus last week before inadvertently turning the ball into his own net in the third minute of added time. If the bustling forward is seeking a reprieve, he must prepare for disappointment with Kondás likely to opt for a five-man midfield in an attempt to nullify their opponents in the opening exchanges.
Ominously for the home side, BATE's conundrum bears a significant resemblance to last season's UEFA Champions League play-off triumph when they dispatched SK Sturm Graz 2-0 in the return leg having drawn 1-1 at home. The Belarusians will also be bolstered by returning Olympians, including goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor, defender Denis Polyakov and midfielders Dmitri Baga and Renan Bressan.
Aleksandr Hleb only joined BATE in late July but the 31-year-old has watched his new team enough to know where their strengths lie. "We were slightly jaded in the first match," said the former Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona midfielder. "However, the game remains in our hands. I have seen BATE play numerous times away from home and I think we perform better."
Far from complacent, Hleb cast a studious eye over Debrecen and considers them "powerful and extremely well organised". "They scored in the first leg and got men behind the ball and made it very difficult for us," he added. "Regardless, we know we have to score in Hungary and we will give it everything we've got to give our fans something to celebrate."
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