So often the underdogs on the European stage, FC BATE Borisov will be the experienced party when they take on Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC in the UEFA Champions League play-offs on Wednesday.
With two group stage campaigns under their belts, Viktor Goncharenko's side are veterans compared to their opponents, who won a maiden Israeli title last season. Nevertheless, the coach is no less enthused about a return to the top.
"Before an important Champions League match there is always an influx of high excitement," Goncharenko said. "There is a big desire to win. I am very happy with the atmosphere within our group and I dare to believe that we have studied our opponents thoroughly."
With the exception of injured midfielder Dmitri Baga, Goncharenko has a fully fit squad to choose from. He also welcomes the standard move of playing their home game in Minsk, after hosting matches in earlier rounds at their usual stadium in Borisov, saying "it gives us an extra boost".
The return of former Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona playmaker Aleksandr Hleb is another plus point for BATE. "He definitely attracts the attention of the opposition to him, which makes life easier for other players," added the 35-year-old coach, who in his sixth season in change at the club.
BATE would probably constitute old hands at this level in the eyes of Kiryat Shmona. The Israeli debutants caused more than a stir by collecting a first domestic title in April and are now eyeing up yet more history. Gil Landau's team are well aware that two of the last three champions from their country have made the UEFA Champions League group stage, and now they want a piece of the action.
Things will be far from easy with two key players – David Solari and Bryan Gerzicich – missing through injury, but Landau was in typically figurative mood when discussing his side's chances, saying: "My grandmother always told me, 'Even if you are not sure you'll get to the moon by yourself, do not stop dreaming about it.' So I believe and I dream.
"The road to victory is paved with hard battle, but I am hopeful. Sometimes the absence of players can result in the whole team losing confidence; the level of our game makes me think that everything will be OK. The absence of two leaders in David Solari and Bryan Gerzicich will be added motivation for the others."
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