I know pretty much nothing of Belarus. It’s a republic, they have an ugly flag,… Oh yes, and some decent Eurovision Song Contest displays (I’m a fan, you probably know by now). Victoria Azarenka, a famous tennis player, is errr, good-looking I guess. But football? Meh. Not a country with a big tradition like
England Italy, Brazil or Germany. Alexander Hleb once played for Arsenal and Barcelona but he’s 34 by now. Their national team doesn’t have any superstars, most guys play for local clubs like BATE and Dinamo Minsk or Russian clubs like Samara or Kazan. No big guns.
So, BATE Borisov. First of all, BATE stands for Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics. Got it? Good, in case you might visit a quiz in your neighborhood soon and someones fires this question at you: "My dear man, what does BATE mean?" You’ll own him big time. No thanks. The city Borisov lies near the river Berezine and has a population of approx. 150 000. Some nice architecture here and there and I heard some inhabitants also started a professional football club with blue and yellow colors…
But let’s not make fun of BATE, they’re kind of a big deal in Belarus. Founded in 1973, they have been crowned champions of Belarus 11 times since 1999 and were 4 times runners-up. They have also won 3 cups and 5 supercups since 2006. Minor league or not, that’s a mighty fine trophy cabinet. And pretty huge compared to Roma’s one: Two Coppe Italia, one Supercoppa and the highly praised album ‘Porompompero’ from Rudi Garcia which struck gold in at least five countries worldwide. Wow, those Borisovians (Borisovs? Borisovi?) must be really shaking on their knees right now…
As if this trip wasn’t tricky enough, Roma currently has a small injury crisis to deal with. The Carpi game was a true battlefield, with three notable victims: Totti, Dzeko and Keita. Three very important players with a lot of international experience. Rudi only called up 16 (!) healthy players for this game so this means 1) the bench contains only five subs (including three defenders and a keeper) and 2) we might see a frontline of Iturbe-Gervinho-Salah. Pace? Yes. Brains? Not so much. Dear Lord, God help us all. Of course, if you want to look on the bright side: better against BATE than Leverkusen or Barcelona, right? Right?!
The two confrontations against BATE probably decide whether Roma finish second or third in its group (given they at least win once against the Germans). This is a crucial must-win, with a depleted squad or not. Their biggest threat is not midfielder Hleb or striker Rodionov (93 club goals), but AS Roma. As long as Roma doesn’t repeat its ‘trick’ from in Sampdoria, we’re fine. We still got plenty of quality to take home those 3 points. I’d even accept a narrow 0-1, it doesn’t have to be beautiful. It probably won’t be. Underestimating them will be a mistake. It's no prestigious match like Barcelona, these are totally different circumstances.
Get in, get the job done, get out. Plain and simple, yet painfully difficult for a club like Roma. Now where did I put that vodka?