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What does the domestic structure of India's next opponents - Bahrain & Belarus - look like?

09:31 GMT+3 15/03/2022
Bate Borisov
Goal tells you about the domestic competitions of Bahrain and Belarus...

India have already started training in Pune from March 11 for the two upcoming friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus on March 23 and 26 respectively. They are playing these two matches as part of their preparations for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup third round qualifiers which are slated to be held in June at Kolkata.

The players who are still playing in the semi-finals of the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) will be joining the camp as and when their club commitments end. The list will later be pruned, and the contingent will be flying to Bahrain on March 21.

Here, we take a look at the domestic league structure of Bahrain and Belarus that India are set to lock horns against.

Bahrain

There is currently a two-tier league structure in place in Bahrain. The Bahraini Premier League is the top tier competition which is followed by the Bahraini Second Division.

There are 10 teams in the top tier and they meet each other twice in the league stage playing a total of 18 matches on a home and away basis. The bottom two teams are relegated to the second division whereas the eighth-placed team clash against the third-placed team of the second division in a relegation play-off. Their league starts in August and ends in April. The winners of the league get a direct spot in the AFC Cup.

In the second division, there are 10 teams as well and follow the same format as the Premier League. The top two teams get promoted to the Premier League whereas the third-placed team can also get promoted if they win the playoff match.

However, there are a few cup competitions in which the clubs take part. In the qualification stage of the King's Cup, teams are usually divided into pools depending on the number of participating sides. The final stage starts from the Round of 16 and the 10 Premier League side joins the competition from this stage.

In the Bahrain FA Cup, 20 teams are divided into four groups. The four group champions progress to the semifinals and subsequently to the final, which are all one legged-ties. Whereas, the Bahraini Super Cup is contested by the winners of the Bahraini League and the King's Cup. It is a one-match affair.

Bahrain Elite Cup is another tournament where the top-six clubs of the previous year's Premier League standings participate. They are divided into two groups and the top two teams of each group meet each other in the semi-final. The winners progress into the final. All knockout stage matches are one-legged ties.

Belarus

There are three tiers in the domestic league structure of Belarus. The Belarusian Premier League, which is at the top of the pyramid, is contested by 16 teams. It runs from March to November. They meet each other twice on a home and away basis and hence play 30 matches in the league. The winners are granted a spot in the UEFA Champions League's first qualifying round. The runners-up get an entry to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League whereas, the third-placed team head towards the first qualifying round of the same tournament.

The two bottom-ranked teams are relegated to the Belarusian First League or the second division. Whereas, the 14th-placed team meet the third-placed team of the second-division in a playoff match.

The First League, which is the second division, consists of 16 teams. However, in 2021 it had only 12 teams as several clubs pulled out due to financial reasons. The format is the same as that of the Premier League. The top two teams qualify for the top division whereas the third-placed team have to go up against the 14th placed team of the Premier League in a playoff match. The bottom-placed team is relegated to the third division or the second league.

The Belarusian Second League does not have a strict number of teams or competition format. Before the start of each season, the format of the league is adjusted depending on how many teams are willing to participate and able to fulfill licensing criteria. In 2020, 22 teams were divided into two groups of 11 each. They played each other twice in the group stages and the top-three teams from each pool advanced to the next round. The six teams once again faced each other twice and the best two teams were promoted to the second division.

There is also the Belarusian Premier League Reserves Championship where the reserve clubs of the premier sides of Belarus take part. There are no promotion or relegation involved.

The Belarusian Cup is the premier knockout tournament of the European nation. It runs throughout the year starting in May and ending in late April or even early May. In the preliminary round of the 2021-22 edition 70 clubs, mostly from the Second League or lower regional leagues participated. The Premier League clubs start participating from the third round. Till the Round of 16, all matches are single-legged. However, from the quarter-finals, the tie is played on a home and away basis. Once again the final is a one-match affair. The winners of the tournament also qualify for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.