A closer look at Derry City's Europa League opponents
DERRY CITY face a sizeable task against Dinamo Minsk in the Europa League first round qualifier next month as European football returns to Brandywell Stadium for the first time in four years!
But let's take a quick look at what we know about the Candy Stripes' Belarusian opponents.
Dinamo Minsk have won the Belarusian championship seven times from 1992 to 2004, but for the past nine years, has had to take a backseat to BATE Borisov, who have won the league nine times in a row.
Under the ownership of oligarch, Yury Chyzh, widely regarded Belarus’ second richest man, Dinamo has been able to catch up to BATE in recent years, and is currently considered the closest title challenger.
Dinamo is also only the second club, after BATE Borisov, from Belarus to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League.
The Belarusians have decent European pedigree and progressed to the Europa League group stages in consecutive seasons in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
The 1980s were the club’s most successful period in the Soviet Union as Dinamo managed to qualify for European football five times in a row—from 1983 to 1988.
In the 1984-85 season they reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup while they've also progressed to the last eight stage of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1988.
Dinamo, managed by former AS Roma midfielder, Sergei Gurenko, are currently sitting second in the Belarusian Championship, six points behind BATE Borisov after 12 games.
And as a measure of how tough a test it will be for Kenny Shiels' charges, Shakhtyor Soligorsk, who defeated the Candy Stripes 6-1 on aggregate back in 2014 in the same competition, are one point behind Dinamo in third place.
For Dinamo Minsk striker, Ivanov Fillip the Brandywell Stadium will be a familiar ground. Indeed he was an unused substitute in both legs when representing Soligorsk in the first round qualifier in 2014.
However, Belarus senior international striker, Anton Saroka is expected to be their major threat in attack having netted four goals in six Europa League matches so far. He's netted three in seven matches in the Belarus Premier League already this season while his strike partner, Khvashchynski Uladzimir is the club's top scorer with four.
Shiels' men will host Dinamo Minsk at Brandywell Stadium on July 12th before making the long trek across Europe for the return leg at the 17,600 capacity Traktor Stadium on July 19th.
Derry City CEO, Sean Barrett, who attended the draw in Nyon, Switzerland on Wednesday with Board member, Robert Martin, said he would prefer the first leg at home.
But Shiels will be hoping to keep the tie in the balance for that trip to Minsk. Last season his side were eliminated at the first round stage at the hands of FC Midtjylland who inflicted a heavily one-sided 10-2 aggregate win.