The semi-finals of the Belarus Cup begin this Wednesday, with defending champions Shakhtyor Soligorsk visiting Dinamo Brest after Slavia Mozyr take on BATE Borisov in the first of their two-legged ties.
On top of the prized trophy on offer, the big incentive for glory is the cup winners’ route into the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.
Shakhtyor came agonisingly close to the group stages of this season’s Europa League, with convincing wins over Hibernians (Gibraltar) and Esbjerg (Denmark), but were eventually well-beaten by Torino in a prestigious and lucrative double-headed fixture for the club. Italian giants Torino then went on to lose their play-off with Premier League high-fliers Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Outright favourites BATE take on rank outsiders Mozyr in the opening semi-final on Wednesday. With 15 Belarus Premier League titles to their name, BATE Borisov are the most successful club in their country and they’re aiming for an unprecedented fourth Belarus Cup by winning this season’s competition.
BATE’s quest for cup glory has been spearheaded by French winger Hervaine Moukam and Finnish striker Jasse Touminen, who have six goals between them despite featuring in just two matches so far. However, Touminen’s recent departure for Swedish club Hacken may well hamper BATE’s chances here.
Young Ukrainian centre-forward Maksym Slyusar has been in equally good form in the cup for Mozyr, with three goals to his name. Add the form of Russian strike partner Nikita Melnikov and Mozyr command some serious respect ahead of this tie.
Despite only being three games in, Slavia Mozyr currently sit the highest in the Belarus Premier League out of the four remaining semi-finalists. That may not mean too much on paper, but Mozyr have already beaten BATE and fellow semi-finalists Dinamo Brest in the league this season.
Although he moved on before last year’s final, Albanian playmaker Elis Bakaj was instrumental in getting Shakhtyor there. The Miners have been missing the experienced number 10’s creativity since, but new signing Gega Diasamidze has been showing glimpses as to why Shakhtyor were so keen to sign him before the new season.
If the Georgian midfielder can forge a partnership with fellow new arrival Yuri Kendysh in midfield, Shakhtyor can start dreaming of the double. Club Captain and former Dinamo Brest goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor could well become the pantomime villain for his former employers, whilst the goal threat will come from the evergreen Austrian frontman Darko Bodul.
How Dinamo Brest could do with Joel Fameyeh right now. The record-breaking Ghanaian forward scored seven goals in the Belarus Cup when Brest last lifted the trophy back in 2018. However, Fameyeh now plies his trade in Russia with Orenburg.
Dinamo’s biggest problem this term has been finding the back of the net. Whilst it may be seen as a positive that goalscoring duties have been shared throughout the squad, nobody has contributed more goals than Cameroonian centre back Kiki Gabi.
Experienced Dinamo Brest target man Artem Milevskiy is undoubtedly one of the more recognisable names in Belorussian football. The former Dynamo Kiev hero almost signed for Liverpool at the peak of his career, but at the age of 35 his best days have passed him by. Dinamo Brest’s goalscoring hopes rest upon wingers Pavel Nekhajchik and Pavel Savitskiy, who along with Denis Laptev scored 39 goals last season – but they have failed to get going this term.
Slavia Mozyr to beat BATE Borisov
Shakhtyor Soligorsk v Dinamo Brest – under 2.5 goals