Eleven years after Bayern beat Valencia on penalties to win the Champions League in 2001, the teams come face-to-face again in the group stage of the 2012/13 competition. The Reds have met the Spaniards three times in the Champions League so far, but have never before played OSC Lille, who finished third in Ligue 1 last term, or serial Belarus champions BATE Borisov. fcbayern.de profiles the Group F rivals.
Valencia finished third in La Liga behind Real Madrid and Barcelona last season, although they were 39 and 30 points respectively off the top two. Valencia’s perennial problem is servicing a long-standing debt on a stadium reconstruction project, so they are a selling club nowadays. Jordi Alba left for Barcelona and midfielder Mehmet Topal for Fenerbahce in big-money transfers this summer, with Pablo Hernandez bound for Swansea City in the Premier League.
In 2010/11 the club lost David Villa to Barca and David Silva to Manchester City, with Juan Mata leaving for Chelsea the following year. That doesn’t mean boss Mauricio Pellegrino is without talented players: striker Roberto Soldado has scored in both league games so far, a 1-1 away draw with Real Madrid and a 3-3 stalemate against Deportivo La Coruna. Summer signings include Aly Cissokho from Lyon and Sergio Canales from Real. Former Bundesliga striker Nelson Valdez also plays for Valencia.
The most recent meeting was the 2001 final in Milan, settled in FCB’s favour by Olli Kahn’s penalty shootout heroics. All three Champions League games between the clubs have ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. As for the Mediterranean city itself, Valencia is situated on the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast) in the east of Spain, some 320 kilometres south-east of Madrid. The club’s 53,939 capacity Mestalla stadium is scheduled to be replaced by the multi-purpose Nou Mestalla in the next few years.
Lille joined champions Montpellier and runners-up Paris St. Germain as the French representatives in the Champions League, although OSC first faced a fierce two-legged qualifying battle with FC Copenhagen before squeezing through 2-1 on aggregate.
The northerners shot to prominence in 2010/11 with a stunning championship triumph ahead of perennial contenders Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux. The club added the cup to their first league title since 1954, beating PSG 1-0 at Stade de France to take their first trophy in 56 years.
However, coach Rudi Garcia’s side had a tricky 2011/12 European campaign, and finished fourth in their Champions League group behind Inter, CSKA Moscow and Trabzonspor. The French side have only survived the group stage once in four attempts, going on to lose to Manchester United in the 2006/07 last sixteen.
The best known players on the books with Lille, nicknamed Les Dogues (The Mastiffs), are keeper Mickaël Landreau, ex-Hamburg defender David Rozehnahl, and former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou. Key player Eden Hazard left for the current Champions League holders this summer. Three games into the new Ligue 1 campaign, Garcia’s men lie eighth. Lille have just moved to the brand-new Grand Stade, boasting a near-50,000 capacity.
BATE Borisov have been the sole international standard-bearers for Belarus football in recent years. The yellow and blues have been crowned domestic champions six times on the trot too, and are the most successful club in the country with eight league titles in all. BATE have also won the cup (2006, 2010) and the Supercup (2010, 2011) twice.
The club, whose name is an acronym of the factory (Borisov Automobile and Tractor electric Equipment works) where it was founded in 1973, were promoted to the local top flight in 1997. They are the only Belarus-based club ever to feature in the Champions League, but have yet to win a match in two previous campaigns (five draws, seven defeats). Their biggest international success was reaching the last 32 of the Europa League in 2010/11.
Borisov qualified for this season’s Champions League by beating Vardar (Macedonia), Debreceni (Hungary) and Israeli champions FC Hapoel Kiryat Shmona. The basis for their success is a solid defence: 19 games into the calendar-year domestic season, BATE have conceded only nine goals and are top of the standings.
35-year-old coach Viktor Goncharenko supervises a squad mainly comprising local players. BATE made two major signings in late July, bringing in Aleksandr Hleb (31), whose career began in Borisov and who achieved fame with Stuttgart, Arsenal and Barcelona, and Raman Vasilyuk (33), the league’s all-time leading scorer with 189 goals in 347 appearances. However, 23-year-old midfielder Renan Bressan finished as the league’s top scorer in both 2010 and 2011.
BATE’s home ground is the compact Haradski stadium with a capacity of just 5,500. The ground is not an approved Champions League venue, so the club travel the 100 kilometres to Minsk and the 40,000 capacity Dinamo Stadium instead. Bayern have never previously played BATE Borisov or any other Belarusian team.