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Champions and Europa League previews

01 August on Champions League, Europa League   Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday

BATE Borisov (Belarus) vs Debrecen

Champions League 3rd qualifying round, First leg, City stadium, Borisov, kick off 18.00 Hungarian time

The current champions of Hungary opened up their league campaign last weekend with a very convincing 4-1 win over one of the title contenders, Győr. With goals and talent in abundance, they even had the luxury of leaving last season’s top scorer, Adamo Coulibaly, on the bench. Debrecen reached this round after a very poor first leg performance against Skënderbeu Korçë of Albania in the 2nd qualifying round, which they lost 1-0. In the second leg in Hungary they were ruthless, running out 3-0 winners although there were some hearts in mouths moments.

BATE have won six consecutive league titles in their native Belarus and reached this round by narrowly beating Vardar of Macedonia 3-2 on aggregate. Last season they made the Champions League group stages where they most notably drew 1-1 with AC Milan and the previous year they played in the Europa League where they qualified from their group and only lost on away goals to Paris Saint Germain. They will certainly be no pushovers.

 

Thursday

Videoton vs KAA Gent (Belgium)

Europa League third qualifying round, First leg, Sóstói stadium, Szekesfehervar, kick off 20.30 Hungarian time

Videoton go into Thursday’s game off the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw in their opening game of the Hungarian season against expected strugglers Lombard Pápa on Sunday. They earned  the right to face Gent by beating Slovan Bratislava, albeit on away goals as they drew 1-1 in Slovakia and held on in a very tight 0-0 in Hungary. Paulo Sousa is already under pressure to qualify for the group stages of the competition and they must take advantage of playing the first leg in front of their own fans, who will make it a very partisan and vociferous atmosphere.

De Buffalo's almost found themselves at the wrong end of a major shock in the previous round against Differdange from Luxembourg, provoking questions over the club's transfer policy. A number of first-choice players from last season has left, such as goalscoring Jesper Jørgensen and striker Zlatan Ljubijankic. Trond Sollied saw his new-look outfit answer the critics with a convincing 2-0 win over Lierse in their opening league game . Provided Remi Maréval is fit (he is fasting for Ramadan), Gent have a settled backline, which includes captain Cesar Arzo – a threat from set-pieces. Shlomi Arbitman will be looking to build on his brace at the weekend while Ibrahima Conté could pose a real threat coming forward from midfield. Gent will expect to progress into the play-off round.

 

Thanks to Belgian football expert Gary Niblock for the Gent part of the preview. His website can be found here http://blauwzwartmauverouche.wordpress.com/ and you can follow him on twitter @goalGary

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