herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

We will rise to BATE

Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers is in a confident mood ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Belarus.
Dundalk keeper Gary Rogers is in a confident mood ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Belarus.

Gary Rogers believes that his Dundlak side have enough experience and know-how to outwit BATE Borisov and get into the next phase of Champions League qualification.

The Dundalk squad arrived in Belarus last night to prepare for Tuesday's third qualifying round, first leg tie against Champions League regulars BATE.

The early arrival will leave today free for boss Stephen Kenny and his staff to go through BATE in even more detail, but the Dundalk players are well-versed in Belarussian football, have played against, and narrowly lost to, BATE at the second-round stage last year.

BATE's European pedigree is not in doubt and they will expect to advance again this year, but European veteran Rogers feels that Kenny's side have enough about them to go one better against BATE in 2016.

"I think BATE are beatable, any team are beatable," Rogers told the Herald.

"You look at Celtic the other week, who'd have thought they'd lose in Gibraltar? BATE are a very good side and have a real European pedigree but we know what we can do as well, we gave them a good rattle last year, we will be more familiar with them now having played them 12 months ago, so now we'll try to put our game plan into practice and get a good result. We were really in the tie with BATE last year and there was only a kick of a ball between the two teams over 180 minutes, we have to make sure that when we come back for the home leg that we still have an opportunity to go through.

"We have a lot of European experience now, the draw in Iceland last week will stand to us even more, and this is a really good opportunity for us," Rogers added.

European trips often fill Irish clubs with a sense of foreboding but this is no trip into the unknown for Dundalk.

"It's a real help that we have been there before, even being ready for simple stuff like the flight and the delay at border control," says Rogers.

"We're looking forward to it, it's a great stadium to play in, we're even staying in the same hotel as last year so it's not new to us. We want to give a good account of ourselves and the league."

After beating Dundalk last year, BATE took care of opposition from Hungary and Serbia to advance to the group phase of the Champions League, where they took four points off Roma and drew with Bayer Leverkusen.

Rogers is aware of the task but feels that study of BATE can help the League of Ireland champions.

"We will look at their strengths and weaknesses and see how we can hurt them," added the Meath-born keeper.

"It goes without saying that we have to tighten up at the back, I know our boys are capable of scoring as we have talented players all over the pitch. David McMillan is in great form and you'd fancy him to score, it's so important for us to keep it tight at the back and then take the opportunities we get.

"That's the big difference in European competition, you might only get one or two scoring opportunities over the game and you have to make them count. The top European sides will punish you when they get a chance so we have to be clinical and take our chances when we get them."

Apart from defender Brian Gartland, who suffered a wrist injury in the last round and is out for up to two months, Dundalk have a full-strength squad available.

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