Sep 5, 2011
With the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League group stage getting under way in a couple of weeks, we’re here to provide an introduction to some of the competition’s less-familiar faces. Their opponents will do everything they can to deprive these teams of a warm welcome, so we figure it’s the least we can do.
The reigning champions of the Belarusian Premier League, BATE Borisov battles in the group stage for the second time since the 2008-09 season and is the only club team from Belarus to ever feature in this stage of the competition. If you’re curious about the club’s acronym, you’ll likely need more than one guess as it’s based on the Borisov Works of Automobile and Tractor Electric Equipment factory from its 1973 founding (however the club was reestablished 1996).
As far as BATE Borisov’s group, it’s a tale of a minnow in shark-infested waters. Barcelona and AC Milan tend to stick out in any group, and these two clubs are licking their chops and already thinking about the Round of 16. Ultimately for BATE Borisov, Group H is going to come down to a battle against Viktoria Plzen for the third place team that gets dropped into the Europa League.
Viktoria Plzen earned the privilege to compete in the Champions League group stage for its first time by finishing on top of the Czech league, Gambrinus liga, last season. This marks only the club’s third trip into European competition (including the 1971-72 European Cup Winners’ Cup and the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League) since its 1911 founding.
In terms of Plzen’s chances, see above with BATE Borisov. For smaller teams in the competition, these two clubs drew the most difficult group in the Champions League. However in the eyes of Barcelona and AC Milan, its quite the dream draw. Both clubs are already dreaming what would be their ideal pairings in the elimination stage. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll don my figurative Plzen jersey each time they take the pitch against the two giants in the group, but they’re going to need a miracle. At the end of the day, the only bigger shock than Plzen advancing out of this group would be West Ham winning the Premier League this season, which would be especially difficult to do from the Championship division.