Chelsea maintained their perfect start to UEFA Europa League Group L with a 3-1 victory over BATE Borisov at Stamford Bridge on matchday three. They now hold a six-point lead over the other three clubs in the section and take on BATE for the second time in a fortnight knowing that a fourth win out of four will secure their qualification for the round of 32.
• A pair of 1-0 wins – away at PAOK, at home to Vidi – put Chelsea in command of the section before they consolidated their position as section leaders thanks to a Ruben Loftus-Cheek hat-trick against BATE. The Belarusian champions began their group campaign with a 2-0 win in Hungary before losing 1-4 at home to PAOK.
• The clubs had never previously crossed swords in UEFA competition until the 25 October contest, Chelsea’s first game against opponents from Belarus.
• Both of BATE’s previous two home games against English opposition have ended in defeat – UEFA Europa League group stage encounters against Everton (1-2) and, last season, Arsenal (2-4).
• Midway through competing in last season’s UEFA Europa League group stage BATE clinched the Belarusian league title for the 12th year in a row – and are on the brink of making it 13 this autumn. They are back in the same European competition having missed out on UEFA Champions League group stage qualification, a pair of 2-1 aggregate victories over HJK Helsinki and Qarabağ preceding a heavy play-off defeat by PSV Eindhoven (2-3 home, 0-3 away).
• BATE are in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the fourth time and the second year in a row. They advanced to the knockout phase in 2010/11 but have been unsuccessful in the other two campaigns, finishing bottom of their section last season after taking just five points from their six games against Crvena zvezda, Arsenal and Köln.
• The Borisov club’s home record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W4 D1 L5. They have not won any of their four European fixtures at home this season, losing each of the last two, and have been victorious in only one of their last eight (D4 L3) – 1-0 against Köln on matchday three last term.
• Chelsea could finish only fifth in defence of their Premier League title last season, but booked a first ever place in the UEFA Europa League group stage twice over by winning the FA Cup for the eighth time, defeating Manchester United 1-0 in the final.
• Although the west London side are new to this stage of the UEFA Europa League, they won the competition on their only previous participation, in 2013, having crossed over to the knockout phase in mid-season from the UEFA Champions League. Their route to the final in Amsterdam, where they defeated Benfica 2-1, incorporated two wins and two losses away from home.
• Chelsea’s last seven European away matches have alternated between wins and defeats, starting with a 4-0 victory at Maccabi Tel-Aviv on matchday five of the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League. If the pattern continues, they are set to lose this encounter.
Links and trivia
• Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud scored for Arsenal in both group games against BATE in last season’s UEFA Europa League.
• BATE are one of 12 reigning domestic champions in this season’s group stage, while Chelsea are one of ten domestic cup holders in the field. The London side are also one of only two previous UEFA Europa League winners among the 48 clubs, the other being three-time champions Sevilla.
• Chelsea are one of six clubs with maximum points from the opening three UEFA Europa League fixtures, the others being FC Zürich (Group A), Salzburg (B), Dinamo Zagreb (D), Arsenal (E) and Eintracht Frankfurt (H).
• BATE wrapped up their 13th consecutive league title in Belarus on Sunday with a 1-0 victory against Neman Grodno. They are now one title shy of the European record, held jointly by Latvian side Skonto and Lincoln of Gibraltar.
• Handed the position of BATE Borisov head coach in June 2018, as a replacement for Oleg Dulub, Aleksei Baga was an internal appointment, having served the club as assistant coach for seven years. A former defender, he also spent most of his playing career at BATE, winning league titles in 2002 and 2006, the latter coupled with a domestic cup victory, before ending his career – after a brief spell in Latvia – with rival club Dinamo Brest.
• Named as the new Chelsea boss in succession to his fellow Italian, Antonio Conte, in July 2018, Maurizio Sarri is widely considered to be one of Europe’s most progressive coaches. He paid his dues in Italy’s lower leagues with a multitude of clubs before getting his big break at Empoli, whom he steered into Serie A, before replacing Rafael Benítez at Napoli in 2015. Three seasons in Naples all brought top-three finishes, his entertaining side running Juventus close for the Scudetto in 2017/18.