Plzen v BATE Borisov preview

Plzen have never before progressed to the group stages in European

competition but their reward for winning six successive matches

from the Champions League second qualifying round was to be drawn

in Group H alongside superpowers Barcelona and AC Milan. BATE are

also in the pool, and the two outsiders meet on Tuesday evening in

the Czech Republic with Bakos, who scored six goals in qualifying,

eager to get going. “Like most of the guys, this will be my first

time in the group stages,” said Bakos. “I’m very much looking

forward to it and I’m very impatient. I want the referee to blow

his whistle.” The 28-year-old is not taking anything for granted,

however, despite his side’s good form so far in the competition, or

the fact that BATE do not have the history or reputation of either

holders Barca or seven-time European champions Milan. “We have to

keep both feet on the ground, because now the opponents will be

even better,” he said. “First of all we must recognise that they

(BATE) have been playing in Europe for a few years. So it’s a team

that has plenty of experience. Although the public may not be as

attractive as teams from the west, but they certainly have quality.

They will be a very tough opponent.” Bakos warmed up for the

fixture with an eventful domestic game against Sigma Olomouc on

Friday, when he scored twice in the opening nine minutes of the 3-2

win before being sent off just before half-time. That victory left

the reigning Czech champions in sixth spot in their domestic

standings with 10 points from six games, five points behind leaders

Sparta Prague. In their last home match Plzen suffered a 2-0 defeat

to Sparta – ending their 30-match unbeaten league record in front

of their own fans. Like Plzen, BATE also came through the

qualifying stages to get to this point, beating Linfield, Ekranas

and Sturm Graz. This is the second time BATE will be taking part in

the group stages, having finished bottom of their pool in 2008/09

after being handed another tough draw with Real Madrid, Juventus

and Zenit St Petersburg making up the opposition. In reaching the

groups three years ago BATE beat in the third qualifying round a

Levski Sofia side that included current Plzen defender David

Bystron, and he recalled of the Belarus side: “They are extremely

tough competitors. “I hope that the game will be sold out and that

our fans will once again drive us forward.” BATE go into the game

having drawn 0-0 in the league with second-placed Shakhtyor

Soligorsk on Friday, leaving them nine points clear at the top of

their domestic standings. BATE are without the injured Vitali

Rodionov, Evgeni Kuntsevich, Dmitri Likhtarovich and Aleksandr

Pavlov, while Plzen are missing goalkeeper Roman Pavlik.