The Belarus Premier League continues this weekend with just one point separating the top six sides in the standings.
The action begins on Friday with newly-promoted Smolevichy still chasing a first win of the season, with Dinamo Minsk providing the opposition at Ozyorny Stadium. Smolevichy would have been disappointed not to get off the mark last week, eventually having to settle for a point against fellow strugglers Belshina, thanks to a 90th minute equaliser courtesy of Yevgeny Barsukov’s penalty.
Meanwhile, Dinamo Minsk come into this one on the back of a 2-0 win over Neman Grodno. Dinamo have been a shadow of the team that narrowly missed out on UEFA Europa League qualification last term, and their away form is a major concern. Smolevichy may get the win they crave here.
Later on Friday, two of the league’s out-of-form teams meet as Neman Grodno meet Energetyk-BGU. Both of these sides flirted with the relegation playoff place last season, and whilst Neman Grodno look like they’ll be playing a similar role in the league this term, Energetyk-BGU got off to a flying start with three wins – most notably over BATE Borisov on the opening day.
Jasurbek Yaxshiboev was one of the key drivers behind Energetyk’s strong start. The Uzbekistan striker is still the league’s top scorer with three goals, but along with his teammates has failed to find the back of the net in his last two outings. Despite their current drought, only one side (Slutsk) have scored more goals in the league this season, which is good enough reason to back them to win away at a Neman Grodno side, who will be battling relegation again this season.
Saturday starts with a classic mid-table battle between Slavia Mozyr and Minsk. Slavia have one foot in the Belarus Cup final, having won the first leg of their semi-final against BATE. However, they just cannot find any consistency in the league.
This week, however, Mozyr will meet a Minsk side who have a consistent habit of losing. Minsk had started the season well, with a win over newly-promoted Belshina and a derby win over Dinamo Minsk, but have lost three on the bounce since, without scoring a goal. Slavia should win this comfortably.
The most interesting game of the weekend comes at Gorodeya, with 15-time champions BATE Borisov hoping to continue their gradual climb of the standings after a dreadful start. Gorodeya had an equally tricky opening, with two consecutive defeats, but have won each of their last three games without conceding.
Despite all their success in recent years, BATE Borisov have never won at Gorodeya – and lost this fixture 1-0 last season. Don’t expect many goals – Gorodeya have only conceded three all season. A home win and clean sheet with Gorodeya penalty taker Sergey Arkhipov scoring is our featured Jenga Bet this week at odds of 16.12 (subject to change).
The final match on Saturday is a clash of this season’s underachievers. Dinamo Best won the title last season, ending BATE’s 13-year grasp on the trophy – but have failed to find any sort of form this term. Shakhtyor won the domestic cup and finished third, but have only found one win in five games this season.
Both league games between these sides last season ended as draws, and we can find no good reason to back either for the win this weekend.
Free-scoring table-toppers Slutsk open proceedings on Sunday, hoping to find successive wins for the first time this season when Belshina come to town.
Belshina have taken just two points from the 15 available to them so far this season, and there can surely only be one outcome here with the league’s highest scoring team hosting one of the poorest defences. Slutsk to win is this weekend’s banker.
Torpedo BelAZ are fast becoming the nearly men of the Belarus Premier League, often finishing agonisingly close to the European qualifying places and seemingly never able to build season on season.
However, this could well be their year. If their recent goalless draw with resurgent BATE Borisov is a marker, then they should have the better of last season’s first division play-off winners Ruh Brest. However, despite being 9th in the standings, Ruh Brest have the best defensive record in the league, so Torpedo will have to work hard for the win.
Vitebsk avoided the relegation play-off by a point last season, so to find them joint-top after five games this season is a big surprise. Having drawn at in-form Slutsk and beaten Gorodeya, Vitebsk could well be operating at the other end of the table this season.
Isloch will visit Vitebsk on Sunday, having reached their mid-table berth by making easy work of the lesser teams in the division, but struggling against the better sides. Vitebsk have won both of their home games this season without conceding, and their home in the north west of Belarus may well be a notoriously difficult place to go this season. Don’t expect much of Isloch here.