Evening all! Sports Mole
's live Champions League
coverage continues from Belarus as BATE Borisov
welcome Barcelona in Group E. Barcelona currently top the section after collecting four points from their first two group matches, but BATE are just one point behind in third. Group E's other two teams – Leverkusen and Roma – also meet this evening and the table could well have a very different look by the end of play tonight. Let's hope for an entertaining fixture this evening!
These two teams met as recently as the 2011-12 season, when they were drawn into the same group in this particular competition. BATE will not have fond memories of the double-header, however, with Barcelona putting nine goals past the Belarusian team. The fixture in this stadium ended in a 5-0 away victory and Barcelona were also 4-0 winners on their own patch.
Right, the team news has just filtered through, so let me bring you up-to-speed...
BATE: Chernik; Gaiduchik, Milunovic, Mladenovic, Polyakov; A.Volodko, Nikolic, Stasevich; M.Volodko, Signevich, Gordeichuk
BARCELONA: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Mascherano, Busquets, Roberto; Munir, Suarez, Neymar
So there we have it. It appears that the home side will line up in a 4-5-1 formation this evening, with Nikolai Signevich starting through the middle. With Kaspars Dubra sidelined, Vitali Gaiduchik comes into the team at centre-back, while Denis Polyakov is in for the injured Maksim Zhavnerchik.
As for Barcelona, head coach Luis Enrique has made four changes from the team that beat Rayo Vallecano at the weekend. Javier Mascherano will start in the middle of the park, while there is also a spot for Sergi Roberto ahead of Ivan Rakitic
. Further forward, Munir El-Haddadi gets the nod ahead of Sandro Ramirez. Sergio Busquets has been given the armband for the Spanish giants tonight.
So there we have it. The teams are in and we are now less than 45 minutes from kickoff in this Group E fixture. The group is just two games old, but it is not a surprise that Barcelona currently lead the way on four points. Leverkusen are in second spot on three points, while BATE, who also have three points, currently sit third. Roma, however, have some work to do with the Italian side only collecting one point from an available six thus far. The atmosphere is very much building at the Borisov Arena.
BATE did not make it into the group stages of the 2013-14 competition, but the Belarusian champions qualified for the 2014-15 season and also edged their way through the qualifying rounds this term. Back in July, they overcame Dundalk over two legs, before beating Videoton to book their spot in the playoffs. Partizan would have fancied their chances of progressing from that tie, but BATE made it through on aggregate. As a result, they are now locking horns with the biggest teams in Europe once again.
After losing 4-1 at Leverkusen in their group opener on September 16, it appeared that it would be a very tough campaign for BATE. However, the Belarusian outfit beat Roma 3-2 in this stadium last time out to move onto three points. Indeed, that win over Roma was their fourth in a row at home in this season's competition, having also beaten Dundalk, Videoton and Partizan in the qualifying rounds.
BATE lost their first eight matches against Spanish clubs before a 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao in last season's group stages. Overall, they have won just one of their 10 fixtures with La Liga opposition and lost nine times in the process. It is a big ask for the hosts to record all three points tonight, but they might not ever get a better chance to beat Lionel Messi-less Barcelona.
© Getty Images
BATE also clinched their 10th Belarusian league title at the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Vitebsk. In 23 league games this term, they have only been beaten on one occasion. They are a team that are used to winning football matches and have not lost in any competition since that defeat to Leverkusen.
As for Barcelona, they will also enter this game off the back of a league win at the weekend. Neymar scored four in a 5-2 win over Rayo Vallecano, which moved the Catalan outfit onto 18 points in La Liga, now level with leaders Real Madrid. Barcelona have actually lost two of their eight league games this season, but three draws for Real Madrid mean that there is currently nothing to choose between the two teams.
As mentioned, the Spanish side currently top Group E on four points, but they have been far from their best. Luis Enrique's team laboured to a 1-1 draw at Roma in their group opener and needed two late goals to beat Leverkusen in Spain last time out. In both the league and the Champions League, Barcelona are just struggling to find their form from last season, but they are still a sensational outfit.
Indeed, the La Liga champions are attempting to become the first team in the modern era to successfully defend the Champions League. Alongside Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, they are seen as the favourites, but they have work to do in this group. Their next Champions League game is also against BATE in the reverse match at the start of November and six points would set them up nicely for their final two fixtures. Kickoff is now just little over 20 minutes away at the Borisov Arena.
Barcelona, who have lifted the Champions League in four of the last 10 seasons, have won 12 of their 15 games in this competition and have also hit the target in each of those matches. That, coupled with the fact that the Catalan side have scored in each of their last seven away fixtures in Europe suggests that BATE will need a couple of goals this evening if they are to secure a positive result.
That said, Barcelona have lost their last two away fixtures. Both of those defeats came in the league, with a 4-1 defeat at Celta Vigo followed by a 2-1 reverse at Sevilla before the international break. What's more, Barcelona have conceded four goals on three separate occasions this season, which is in stark contrast to their defensive performances last term. What can BATE do this evening?
Andres Iniesta, Rafinha and Messi might still be on the sidelines for Barcelona, but they still have a team capable of repeating the famous treble of last season. Neymar and Suarez are two players that could grace any team in world football and there is quality throughout the midfield. Questions have been raised in the early part of the campaign, but by the time December comes around, Messi will be back in the fold and suddenly everything changes for the Spanish side. Right, just about time for my prediction!
PREDICTION! I am finding it very difficult to back against Barcelona this evening. I think it will be a tough game against a good BATE outfit, but I think that the visitors have enough about them to claim all the points courtesy of a narrow win. Suarez to score in a 2-1 Barcelona victory.
Not exactly the warmest of nights in Belarus - not what Barcelona will be used to, that is for sure! I have a feeling we shall see some gloves on display tonight. Busquets has some on at the moment!
There is plenty happening on Sports Mole this evening so be sure to stick around the site for all of tonight's Champions League action. Over in Belarus, our focus is on Barcelona and BATE, but there are a number of pulsating fixtures on show tonight. Almost time for kickoff here.
KICKOFF! It is a very cold night in Belarus and as expected, some of the Barcelona players have gloves on. I think that I would have to wear a pair tonight! The home supporters are in good spirits and their team will be full of confidence. Right, the visitors get the action underway here...
... as expected, Barcelona have taken control of the possession in the opening couple of minutes, with Munir already cutting in from the right and linking with Suarez. BATE will attempt to sit deep in the early exchanges and threaten on the counter. Signevich, as expected, is leading the hosts' line.
SAVE! First half-chance of the match comes to Barcelona as Neymar cuts in from the left before curling one towards goal, but Chernik stands strong to make the save. Super feet from Neymar there!
BATE have simply not been able to move forward in the opening six minutes as Barcelona continue to dominate possession of the ball. It could be a long night for the hosts if they continue to sit deep. You just get the feeling that BATE need to take the lead here if they are to secure a positive result.
Another half-chance for the away side as Neymar sets up Busquets outside the box, but the Spaniard's low strike with the outside of his right foot was always moving wide of Chernik's post.
Leverkusen have taken the lead against Roma in Group E's other fixture, which is very bad news for the Italians, who have only collected one point in the group thus far. Back in Belarus, Barcelona continue to pass and probe in the final third and BATE are struggling to get a foot in at the moment.
Barcelona continue to threaten and create another half-chance when Neymar delivers towards Roberto, but his header was never causing BATE any danger. The visitors do force a corner, however, after less-than-convincing goalkeeping from Chernik, who then palms Suarez's header over.
CHANCE! Another wonderful chance for Barcelona as a clever low corner from Neymar finds Munir running in on goal, but his low effort is saved by Chernik, before Suarez has one blocked!
Chernik has made some decent stops in the opening 14 minutes, but the BATE goalkeeper does not look convincing from crosses and that could be a good avenue for Barcelona tonight. The hosts have simply not threatened thus far tonight as the Spanish giants continue to dominate possession.
To be blunt, BATE are really, really struggling here. Barcelona have not really been tested at the back aside from a couple of aimless crosses, while the visitors really should be ahead after creating a couple of excellent opportunities. A home goal would be the best outcome for the neural supporter!
This game remains a training exercise for Barcelona as they continue to move the ball from left to right in the final third of the field. Roberto is hobbling for the visitors here though...
... BARCELONA SUB! The change is made as Ivan Rakitic replaces Roberto.
That was not a tactical change, with Roberto clearly in some discomfort when he left the pitch. No change in shape, however, as Rakitic slots into midfield alongside Busquets and Mascherano.
Another half-chance for the away side as a super pass from Rakitic finds Alves inside the BATE box, but the right-back's effort is tipped wide by Chernik. Simply all one-way traffic at the moment.
BATE were three goals ahead inside 30 minutes against Roma in their last Champions League match, but there has been no sign of their attacking threat thus far this evening. Barcelona are playing the game at their own pace and you sense that if one goal arrives, more could quickly follow.
BOOKING! Busquets (Barcelona) is booked for handball.
There was hardly been a challenge of note in the opening 25 minutes tonight, which is an indication of the type of match it has been. BATE have been unable to lay a glove on the visitors here.
Neymar has been Barcelona's best player in this first period and the Brazilian creates another half-chance for the visitors following a bright run, but his back-heel just would not drop into the path of the waiting Suarez. Moments before, Nikolic had showed nice feet in the final third for the home team.
Best part of this game so far? Neymar's feet. Beautiful.
BOOKING! Polyakov (BATE) is booked for a late challenge on Neymar.
CLOSE! Busquets is inches away from sending Barcelona ahead after meeting a deep free kick at the far post, but his effort just edged wide of the post. That looked to be dropping into the net!
Roma have one back against Leverkusen in Group E's other fixture, but the Germans are still 2-1 ahead courtesy of a double from Javier Hernandez. As it stands, Leverkusen top the section.
Barcelona have had plenty of corners this evening, but BATE, as expected, have been solid aerially - they are a big team. Little under 10 minutes of the first period remaining and the home side are still frustrating the reigning European champions with a strong defensive performance. Still goalless here.
Marc Bartra steps forward for Barcelona before releasing a strike, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. It is so far, so good for BATE, but the visitors have just dominated this game.
If we are being honest, this has not been a great game. Barcelona have been very comfortable in possession, but have not cut open the BATE defence on too many occasions. Another passing sequence ends with Alves delivering into the box, but Gaiduchik is on hand to head the danger clear.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Barcelona to take the lead as Alves picks out Rakitic with a super cross, but the Croatian can only head over the crossbar from close range. Should have scored!
BOOKING! Alves (Barcelona) is booked for a late challenge on Mladenovic.
BOOKING! M.Volodko (BATE) is booked for a late challenge on Alves.
Half-chance for Barcelona as a quick free kick leads to Suarez poking one towards the bottom corner, but his effort was always moving away from the post. There is still a good atmosphere inside the stadium here, but the home supporters have not had too much to cheer about this evening.
Neymar fizzes another strike wide of the post as the half-time break approaches.
HALF-TIME: BATE 0-0 Barcelona
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 0-0. The scores might be level, but it has been a half utterly dominated by Barcelona. Neymar, Suarez, Munir and Rakitic have all had excellent chances, but BATE are on terms as the teams head down the tunnel.
STATISTICS! Barcelona have dominated the possession with 69%, while they have had 13 attempts, four of which have been on target. As for BATE, they have not yet had a single attempt in Belarus. There have also been four bookings, with the referee carding two players from each team tonight.
BENCH WATCH! BATE have not offered anything in the final third tonight, but head coach Yermakovich has options on his bench in the shape of Aleksievich, Karnitskiy and Rios. Barcelona, meanwhile, have already been forced into one change with Rakitic replacing the injured Roberto in the 17th minute. Enrique does not have much room for attacking alterations, but Sandro Ramirez is in reserve.
RESTART! Here we go then - both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. Can Barcelona break down this stern BATE outfit? It is the hosts that resume the action in Belarus...
... someone is watching their team from home tonight.
There have been no changes from either manager at the interval, which is not too much of a surprise at this stage of proceedings. However, I suspect that both coaches will have alterations in mind if the score remains level for the next 15, 20 minutes. BATE have started deep once again.
Again it is good work from Neymar as the Brazilian dances into the BATE box before finding Suarez, but his low effort is blocked by Gaiduchik. The resulting set piece brings another opportunity as Pique makes contact, but his header is deflected over for another corner. Good start from Barcelona.
GOAL! BATE 0-1 Barcelona (Rakitic)
Barcelona take the lead in the 48th minute as Neymar drives to the edge of the BATE box before setting up Rakitic, who drills his effort into the top corner. Super finish from the Croatian there!
In truth, that goal had been coming and it places a different complexion on this game. BATE have not been interested in attacking thus far, but will need to start pushing players forward here.
You do get the feeling that a second for Barcelona would wrap up all of the points tonight. I am finding it difficult to imagine BATE scoring once here, let alone twice. The hosts just have not offered anything in the final third and that will be very disappointing for the home supporters.
CLOSE! Neymar comes close to making it 2-0 Barcelona after meeting a super Alves cross from the right, but the Brazilian's effort just moved wide of the post. Neymar has been excellent this evening.
This is very much a weakened Barcelona tonight, but BATE have not been able to take advantage this evening. Neymar continues to run the show as he picks up possession in forward areas, but the striker's latest attempt is blocked, before Munir just curls one over Chernik's crossbar.
Still no movement on either bench, but you suspect that BATE will need to make some alterations if they are to get back in the match. It is simply all Barcelona as they continue to force corners and set pieces, but the score remains 1-0, for now. Little over 30 minutes of this Group E clash remaining.
BATE are now preparing to make their first change of this Group E clash...
... BOOKING! Gaiduchik (BATE) is booked for a late challenge on Busquets.
BATE SUB! Karnitski replaces M.Volodko for the home side.
Alba finds space outside the BATE box before attempting to slide a pass into Neymar, but the Brazilian just could not collect and Chernik restarts the play with a goal kick. Still 1-0 Barcelona.
GOAL! BATE 0-2 Barcelona (Rakitic)
Barcelona score their second of the evening and again it is Rakitic that finds the back of the net. Neymar does superbly to cut in from the left and find the Croatian, who lifted his effort over the onrushing goalkeeper. Once again, it is an excellent finish from Rakitic and that is game over here.
BATE SUB! Yablonski replaces Nikolic for the hosts.
Little over 20 minutes of football remaining in Belarus, but the tempo of the match has not changed. Barcelona continue to dominate possession and the home side continue to drop deeper and deeper.
BATE have still not had a single attempt on target tonight. Very disappointing.
BARCELONA SUB! Sandro replaces Munir for the away side.
Barcelona are having a lot of fun at the moment as they continue to move the ball in the final third and it has been Neymar that has run the show tonight. He has been a level above everyone else.
BARCELONA SUB! Gumbau replaces Busquets in Barcelona's second change.
BOOKING! Gambau (Barcelona) is booked for a late challenge on Stasevich.
Roma now lead 4-2 in Leverkusen, which is some turnaround after the Germans took a 2-0 lead on home soil. As it stands, however, Barcelona would end the evening top of Group E on seven points.
The pace of Sandro is causing problems for BATE in a wide area, but the Spaniard's latest cross is blocked for yet another corner - Barca's ninth of the evening. I must say that I have been very disappointed with BATE in this game - they have just not offered anything in the final third.
Finally BATE have a shot on target, but Ter Stegen denies Signevich from close range.
Finally BATE are showing some life in the final third, but it has come too late. Signevich again tries his luck from outside the box, but Ter Stegen is out to claim. Little over 10 minutes remaining.
BATE SUB! Mozolevski replaces Signevich.
Strange sub that for me - Signevich had just burst into life, then he was replaced. Not too much to report in terms of clear chances in the last few minutes, but it is much better from the hosts, who are now asking questions of the Barcelona defence, who have had it far too easy this evening.
BOOKING! Karnitski (BATE) is booked for a late challenge on Neymar.
BOOKING! Milunovic (BATE) is booked for a lunge on Suarez.
Little over five minutes of this Group E match remaining and Barcelona are comfortable as they continue to keep the ball in the BATE half of the field. It has been so straightforward for the visitors.
Good grief it is now 4-4 between Leverkusen and Roma in Group E's other match!
BOOKING! A.Volodko (BATE) is booked for a late challenge on Neymar.
Neymar comes close to scoring a third for Barcelona after excellent work from Suarez, but his effort is over the crossbar. The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes here.
Barcelona continue to keep the ball as the seconds tick away in Belarus. In truth, it has been a very comfortable evening for Barcelona, who are set to move onto seven points in Group E tonight.
FULL-TIME: BATE 0-2 Barcelona
So there we have it. Very comfortable night for Barcelona, who have collected all three points courtesy of a 2-0 win at BATE Borisov. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action. Good evening!