After keeping yet another UEFA Europa League clean sheet in their play-off opener against CD Nacional, FC Dinamo Minsk are well-placed to achieve a first group stage qualification.
In defeating the Portuguese Liga side 2-0 in Borisov last week, Vladimir Zhuravel's team extended to 450 their run of minutes without conceding a goal in Europe this season. Such miserliness is not just a quirk of their continental campaign, either – in 21 Belarusian Premier League matches this term, championship-chasing Dinamo have conceded just eight times.
One man who has featured in all of those games since the capital club began their UEFA Europa League journey in the second qualifying round is defender Sergei Politevich, who told UEFA.com: "It is very important to avoid goals. We always prioritise getting a result and play accordingly. Our defensive performances are of utmost importance as we want to achieve our aims."
As well as an extended European run those targets include ending FC BATE Borisov's stranglehold on the Vysshaya Liga – the 1984/85 UEFA Cup quarter-finalists are two points behind the traditional powerhouses with one game left of the regular season − and winning the club's first title since 2004.
Get the right result on Thursday in Madeira and Politevich is in for a busy few months on two fronts. "That is a pleasant headache [to have]," said the 24-year-old. "We are keen to make it to the Europa League group stage. We have a young team with a deep squad. Thus I am optimistic about the autumn to come."
Confidence is understandably high heading to Portugal, but Politevich, capped once by Belarus, appreciates "the away game will be completely different". He added: "We understand Nacional's quality and know what to expect from them. It is hard to say where they would finish in the Belarusian league, but they have a very good team and could be among the best in the country.
"We are full of positive emotions, but we must keep our feet on the ground. We will face a long flight, then different climatic conditions. However, we have the advantage at this point. We are going to play our football and only then will we look at the scoreboard."
Politevich and Co do not have to look far for inspiration as they strive to seal progress in Funchal. "We knew that BATE faced Marítimo and beat them [5-1 on aggregate] in the UEFA Europa League play-offs in 2010," explained the former FC Naftan Novopolotsk player. "Thus we haven't been scared of Nacional. We took to the pitch last week and did our job."
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