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Preview: Vardar – BATE Borisov

Vardar logoVardar will attempt to reach the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League when they square off against BATE Borisov tomorrow, trailing 2:3 on aggregate from the first leg.

Vardar squandered a good result in the first result by conceding two goals in stoppage time of the 90th minute to go from leading 2:1 to ultimately losing 2:3.  However, Vardar remains optimistic about its chances and will rely on the electric atmosphere at the “National arena Philip II of Macedon” to serve as the 12th men as they look to eliminate BATE.  A sellout crowd is expected at the renovated stadium as the anticipation and excitement for the forthcoming game has been very high among the Vardar fans.

Ilcho Gjorgjioski, the manager of Vardar, has expressed some worries about the mental state of the team after conceding two late goals in the first leg of the matchup.  It was a demoralizing loss that left the players stunned.  That is why in the days after the match a psychologist has been working with the Vardar players to help them regain the right mindset in anticipation of tomorrow’s return leg.  At today’s press conference, Gjorgjioski said, “We have to play courageously and smartly, know when to attack and when to defend.  My players saw in the first leg that we can play with a squad that has been involved in the Champions League for several seasons.  I expect for everyone to give their maximum and play smart since BATE is a quality team with experience who punishes mistakes.”

Meanwhile, the manager of BATE was cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances saying that the two late goals that ensured a win in the first leg changed the strategy for the return leg.  Instead of having to score at least two goals on the road if the first leg finished 1:2 for Vardar or one goal if it ended 2:2, BATE can now put the pressure on Vardar who must find the back of the net to advance further in the competition.  In addition, the BATE manager wants his team to be more organized on defense and signaled Ostoja Stjepanovic as a player they must stop to get the desired result.

A 1:0 or 2:1 win for Vardar would be enough to reach the third qualifying round of the competition.  Vardar is likely to deploy the same starting 11 from the first leg.  Both teams now have a better feel for one another and can attack areas they perceive to be weaknesses for the opponent.  The BATE manager noted that the hot weather should not be an issue since the match will start at 20:00 CET.  UEFA has assigned Italian Paolo Valeri as the match referee, while national television channel MTV has announced its intent to broadcast the game.

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