Balzan face Neman Grodno test in Hungary

Balzan will be facing FC Neman Grodno of Belarus in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League second qualifying round at the Gyirmóti Stadion in Győr, Hungary.

In fact, since teams from Belarus are unable to host football matches due to the war in Ukraine, Neman Grodno opted to play their home matches in Hungary although Grodno is close to the border of Poland and Lithuania.

Neman Grodno made it to the second qualifying round after eliminating FC Vaduz of Liechtenstein with a 3-2 aggregate score. In the first leg in Vaduz, Neman came from behind to win 2-1 while in the second leg, Neman managed to take the lead with Vaduz notching a late equaliser.

Balzan, on the other hand, reached this stage following a most impressive 4-1 win away from home over NK Domzale and a 1-3 loss at home.

Oliver Spiteri’s side will be hoping for a repeat of the first leg performance against Domzale in order to maintain alive hopes of securing what would be a historic qualification for the club to the third qualifying round. A clash with NK Celje of Slovenia and Vitória SC of Portugal awaits Balzan or Neman Grodno.

Neman Grodno are taking part in the UEFA Europa Conference League after placing ninth in the Belarusian Premier League last year.

They are participating in the competition after champions Shakhtior Saligorsk and Energetik-BGU Minsk were banned for match fixing, Isloch Minsk Raion were suspended for a case of match-fixing dating back to 2016 while FC Minsk and FC Gomel failed to obtain a UEFA license.

FC Neman Grodno are based in Grodno, Belarus and were founded in 1964. The team played in the third tier of the Soviet football system, excluding two seasons (1968 and 1969) spent in the second tier but since 1992, Neman plays in the Belarusian Premier League. In 1993, they won the Belarusian Cup while in 2002, they finished as runners-up in the Premier League after losing the first place play-off against BATE Borisov.

This is only their fourth participation in European football and only the first time that they made it to a second round in a UEFA competition.

This year, they are joint-leaders in the Premier League together with Dinamo Minsk after playing fourteen matches.