Early on Wednesday evening, BATE of Belarus and Rosenborg of Norway face off in the first leg of this Champions League qualifier. As usual, both sides are the champions of their respective nations, but unlike the western European competition, both sides should have match rhythm because their leagues are well underway. Rosenborg are uncharacteristically having a poor domestic season, while BATE currently sit second in their league.
BATE weren’t especially convincing in their last qualifier against Polish minnows Piast Gliwice, being held to a 1-1 draw at home before winning the return leg 2-1. Otherwise, their general form has been quite good after a surprisingly sloppy start to the season. They’ve won eight of their last nine games, drawing the other, and keeping six clean sheets. They’re now within two points of the league leaders Dinamo Brest with a game in hand but will be hoping for more European distractions like this one going forward.
Rosenborg are starting to get things together at this crucial qualification part of the season, having endured a shockingly poor start to the Norwegian Eliteserien as defending Champions. Since winning just one and losing four of their opening eight fixtures, they’re climbing up the table with six wins from their last seven games, while in Europe they made short shrift of Northern Irish side Linfield, winning the first away leg 2-0 before a resounding 4-0 win on home soil.
BATE were ten minutes from an unthinkable early elimination against Piast Gliwice last Wednesday, before two goals in the last ten minutes from Frenchman Heroine Moukam, off the bench to convert a penalty, and striker Zakhar Volkov got them through in Poland. Alexey Baga won’t be convinced by that display and could look to make changes, including Moukam on from the start. Maksim Skavysh has six goals in the league campaign so far and is likely to feature in the starting line-up once again.
Rosenborg played an all-Norwegian XI in the thrashing of Linfield last time out and could do the same again, with the brace-scoring Anders Konradsen a key figure in midfield. Meanwhile, Nigerian striker Babajide David Akintola could prove a difference-maker from the bench; he scored the third against Linfield as a substitute, and could well be used in the same capacity once more. Konradsen also scored two goals in his last league appearance against Viking FK, while striker Alexander Toft Søderlund matched his tally in that 5-1 win and could get a European opportunity for this trip.
This is one of those intriguing litmus tests between two of European football’s less glamorous champions that the early rounds of Champions League qualifying throws up, and they’re often tough ones to call. Both sides have had a similar trajectory this season, and while BATE have been on a more sustained run of form domestically, Rosenborg got through the last European round more convincingly. As such, a draw at 3.10 with Bet365 is worth considering, while given BATE’s ability to keep clean sheets (six from the last nine in the league), both teams not to score at 1.80 is also one to consider. Rosenborg, having scored 14 goals in their last four games will travel full of confidence, though – you can back a safety option of draw or Rosenborg at 1.57.