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Preview: BATE Borisov vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Thursday's Europa League clash between BATE Borisov and Chelsea.

Chelsea head into Thursday's Europa League encounter at BATE Borisov knowing that three points will be enough to secure qualification for the knockout stages of the competition.

BATE are one of three teams locked on three points in Group L, and the Belarusian champions will be aware that any kind of positive result against Chelsea could prove to be the difference at the end of the group stages.

BATE Borisov

BATE Borisov celebrate scoring a goal against Chelsea in Europa League fixture on October 25, 2018© Reuters

BATE Borisov have recently wrapped up a 13th successive top-flight title in Belarus, with a 14-point lead having been established with just three games remaining.

However, Alyaksey Baha's side have failed to back up their domestic form on the European scene, and BATE have a fight on their hands to take advantage of being drawn in a favourable group.

An opening win at Videoton suggested that the club were confident of sealing the runners-up spot behind Chelsea, but seven goals have been conceded in games against PAOK and the Blues and it leaves BATE bottom of the table on goal difference.

Baha will take encouragement from still having two fixtures to play at home - especially with one coming against a Videoton side that they have already beaten - but BATE need points from at least one of the games against Chelsea and PAOK to stay in the hunt for a place in the last 32.

Five years have passed since their last appearance in the knockout stages of this competition, but failure to do so on this occasion would represent a missed opportunity and leave the club turning their attention back to next summer's Champions League qualifiers.

The heavy defeat to PAOK at the start of October was followed by a rare defeat in domestic action, but Baha has watched his team prevail in their last four league matches albeit far from convincingly.

The goals have been shared around the team throughout the season with Maksim Shavysh the top scorer with nine goals, and the 28-year-old is in form with three strikes coming from his last five outings.

Baha will also look to Igor Stasevich, who has provided two assists in the Europa League this season, but it will take a collective team effort to earn anything from a showdown with a club still unbeaten in the Premier League.

Recent form: WLL
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWWW


Maurizio Sarri on the touchline during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018© Reuters

Maurizio Sarri has already used 21 different players during the opening half of the group stages, but it has not prevented Chelsea from securing a commanding advantage at the top of Group L.

The Blues only won by a narrow margin against both PAOK and Videoton, but it gave the club a clear lead above their rivals and the 3-1 victory over BATE two weeks ago has only strengthened the team's bid to gain first place at the earliest opportunity.

A fourth triumph on Thursday could get the job done with two matches to spare, and it would give Sarri the freedom to rest all of his key men during a hectic period for the West Londoners.

Sarri will leave some players at home to prepare for Sunday's Premier League contest with Everton, but Eden Hazard could board the plane to Belarus having spent a short period out with a back problem.

The Belgian playmaker has only been used for 36 minutes across the first three matches, but this game may be used as an opportunity for the 27-year-old to get another hour under his belt.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek netted a hat-trick in the reverse fixture last month, and the young Englishman will want to build on that showing having sat out the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Sarri will not necessarily place pressure on his players to deliver after a lengthy trip to Eastern Europe, but there will be a desire to maintain an unbeaten streak which has now lasted 16 matches and since August 11.

Chelsea have also started to hit the goal trail with 18 coming from their last six outings, and the club's supporters will expect more of the same from whoever takes to the pitch on Thursday night.

Recent form: WWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWWW

Team News

Eden Hazard in action for Chelsea on August 11, 2018© Reuters

Hazard has made just one substitute appearance since October 20, and it would come as a surprise if the winger did not play some part of Thursday's match.

Willian could also feature ahead of Pedro having been substituted after an hour against Crystal Palace, and Sarri has suggested that Olivier Giroud will be ready to start ahead of Alvaro Morata after overcoming an injury problem.

Either Jorginho or N'Golo Kante are likely to be rested, giving Mateo Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek the chance for more game time in the middle of the park, although Cesc Fabregas has been forced to pull out of the squad through illness.

Davide Zappacosta, Andreas Christensen, Gary Cahill and Emerson Palmieri are likely to make up the back four, with Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi potentially featuring on the bench.

Former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb will hope to start for BATE, as will Jasse Tuominen having played his part during Finland's recent resurgence on the international scene.

BATE Borisov possible starting lineup:
Scherbitski; Rios, Filipovic, Filipenko, Volodko; Baga, Dragun, Hleb; Skavysh, Tuominen, Stasevich

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Arrizabalaga; Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Giroud, Hazard

Head To Head

Thursday's fixture will represent just the second competitive meeting between the sides, with October's clash marking Chelsea's first-ever clash against Belarusian opposition.

BATE have twice hosted English sides in this competition, with Everton having to come from behind to earn a 2-1 win back in 2009.

Arsenal resisted a late fightback from BATE to register a 4-2 triumph just over 13 months ago.

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We say: BATE Borisov 1-4 Chelsea

Sarri and his squad will be aware that victory in Belarus will see qualification wrapped up with two games to spare, and that should lead to a professional performance from the Blues. BATE have enjoyed success at their home ground in the past, but we expect Chelsea to ease to a comfortable win.

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Willian in action for Chelsea on February 25, 2018
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