PAOK and BATE can both qualify on matchday six as Group L comes to an exciting conclusion.
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PAOK go into their final UEFA Europa League Group L fixture with a mere three points, but they can still qualify for the knockout phase with a victory over BATE Borisov and help from elsewhere. Their visitors, on six points, will definitely qualify with a win, though a draw could also take them through.
• PAOK have lost four of their five matches, failing to score in all of those defeats, including a 4-0 loss last time out at group winners Chelsea, in which they played 82 minutes with ten men. The only way they can still reach the knockout phase is if they beat BATE and Vidi lose at home to Chelsea, as they would be guaranteed to finish first (on goal difference) in a three-way head-to-head with their rivals from Belarus and Hungary.
• BATE's six points have all come at the expense of Vidi, the second of their 2-0 wins against the Hungarian champions coming at home on matchday five. A victory in Greece will take them through to the knockout phase, and a draw would also be good enough to claim second place if Vidi do not beat Chelsea.
• The clubs had never met in UEFA competition until matchday two when PAOK overwhelmed BATE 4-1 in Borisov, scoring three goals in the first 17 minutes.
• PAOK have fond memories of the only other time they have hosted a team from Belarus – a 6-1 win against Dinamo Minsk in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League, their biggest win in the group stage of this competition. BATE's only previous trip to Greece also came in the UEFA Europa League group stage – a 2-2 draw against AEK Athens in 2009/10.
• PAOK enjoyed a successful 2017/18 on the domestic front, atoning for a rare early exit in Europe – they lost to Swedish debutants Östersund in the UEFA Europa League play-offs – by retaining the Greek Cup and finishing runners-up to AEK Athens in the Superleague. They harboured high hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time this season when they knocked out Basel and Spartak Moskva in qualifying ties and then held Benfica 1-1 in Lisbon in the first leg of their play-off – only to suffer a second-leg 1-4 defeat in Salonika.
• That means PAOK have extended their record of having participated in every season of the UEFA Europa League to a tenth successive year. They have reached the group stage in six previous campaigns, four of which have extended into the knockout phase but never beyond the round of 32. Schalke were the most recent team to end their interest at that juncture with a 4-1 aggregate win in 2016/17.
• The Salonika side have won just one of their last 11 home fixtures in the UEFA Europa League proper (D4 L6), failing to score in eight of them, including five of the last six.
• Midway through competing in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage BATE clinched the Belarusian league title for the 12th year in a row – and they duly made it 13 last month. They are back in this competition having missed out on UEFA Champions League group stage qualification during the summer, a pair of 2-1 aggregate victories over HJK Helsinki and Qarabağ preceding a heavy play-off defeat by PSV Eindhoven (2-3 home, 0-3 away).
• BATE are in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the fourth time and the second year in a row. They advanced to the knockout phase in 2010/11 but were unsuccessful in the other two campaigns, finishing bottom of their section last season after taking just five points from their six games against Crvena zvezda, Arsenal and Köln.
• The Borisov club's away record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W3 D3 L5, the matchday one victory at Vidi having ended a four-game winless sequence that included last season's 6-0 loss at Arsenal – the club's joint heaviest European away defeat. They have, however, won three of their five European fixtures on the road this term.
Links and trivia
• BATE wrapped up their 13th Belarusian league title in a row – and 15th overall – in early November. They are now one shy of the European record for consecutive league titles, held jointly by Latvian side Skonto and Lincoln of Gibraltar.
• BATE players Hervaine Moukam (Asteras Tripolis 2014–16 and Olympiacos Volos 2016/17), Dmitri Baga (Atromitos 2016/17) and Nikolai Signevich (Platanias 2017/18) have all played in Greece.
• This is PAOK's 42nd UEFA Europa League group game – only one club, Salzburg, have played more.
• The son of Mircea Lucescu, Bucharest-born Răzvan spent most of his career as a goalkeeper with clubs from the Romanian capital. As a coach, he enjoyed early success with Rapid Bucureşti, winning back-to-back domestic cups and also steering the club into the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. He then had two years in charge of the Romanian national team, but it was in Greece that he further enhanced his reputation, firstly with Xanthi, then as a Greek Cup winner and league runner-up in his debut season at PAOK.
• Handed the position of BATE Borisov head coach in June 2018, as a replacement for Oleg Dulub, Aleksei Baga was an internal appointment, having served the club as assistant coach for seven years. A former defender, he also spent most of his playing career at BATE, winning league titles in 2002 and 2006, the latter coupled with a domestic cup victory, before ending his career – after a brief spell in Latvia – with rival club Dinamo Brest.