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Dinamo target rare title repeat

Published: Friday 15 April 2005, 16.35CET
FC Dinamo Minsk will kick off the season in Belarus aiming to become the first side since 1995 to retain their crown. features

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Published: Friday 15 April 2005, 16.35CET

Dinamo target rare title repeat

FC Dinamo Minsk will kick off the season in Belarus aiming to become the first side since 1995 to retain their crown.

By Denis Orlov

FC Dinamo Minsk launch the defence of their Belarussian Premier League title away to FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk on Saturday with coach Yuri Shukanov confident his side can prevail again.

'Skilled players'
"I think we have a pretty good squad - there are two skilled players competing for each position," Shukanov said. "We have promoted some youngsters from the reserves and they will strengthen our team when they get the chance to play."

Seventh heaven
Dinamo won the league for the seventh time last season, seven years after their previous triumph. But history is against them repeating the feat - since Dinamo claimed the last of five successive championships in 1995, no team have retained the title.

Edu signs
The addition of former Belarus and FC Torpedo Moskva defender Aliaksandr Lukhvich and Brazilian playmaker Edu, considered the most skilful player in the league, strengthens a squad depleted only by the loss of Viktor Sokol, who has joined FC Dinamo Brest after failing to earn a regular place.

BATE challenge
Shukanov believes Dinamo's main challengers will be FC BATE Borisov, FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk and, surprisingly, MTZ-RIPO, who finished 14th last term. BATE, two-times Belarussian champions, were second but have a new-look team following the departures of coach Yury Puntus and the spine of their squad - Yuri Zhevnov, Evgeni Loshankov, Oleg Shkabara, Aleh Strakhanovich, Valeri Tarasenko and Henadz Mardas.

Kapsky confident
Aliaksandr Baranov, Aliaksandr Fedorovic and Pavel Begansky are BATE's key signings, and chairman Anatoly Kapsky has warned against discounting his side. "We'll try to win first place and fight for the cup," he said.

Puntus expects
Shakhtyor are aiming to improve on last year's third place, while the arrival of Puntus as coach has raised expectations at MTZ-RIPO who reached the 2004 Belarus Cup semi-finals. FC Torpedo Zhodino, FC Gomel, FC Naftan Novopolotsk, Brest and FC Transmash Mogilev also look strong, so it promises to be an interesting campaign.

Smaller league
The league will also be reduced in size this season from 16 to 14 teams after FC Vedrich-97 Rechitsa and FC Torpedo-SKA Minsk were refused top-flight licences by the Football Federation of Belarus. They will compete in the second and third divisions respectively.

Last updated: 31/01/12 7.51CET

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