Dynamo Kyiv vs Skënderbeu Korçë – Thursday, September 14, 18:00 BT / 19:00 CET at NSC Olimpiyskiy, Kyiv, Ukraine.
Dynamo avoided humiliation and salvaged their European campaign with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Portuguese side C.S. Marítimo a fortnight ago and advanced to the group stages of the Europa League.
Nevertheless, after having blown a commanding first leg lead in the Champions League qualifiers earlier in the season against Young Boys, Dynamo supporters will be disappointed to have only qualified for Europe’s second-tier continental competition. In truth, the Europa League is more Dynamo’s level. Incidentally, Dynamo will get a chance to get revenge on Young Boys, who were drawn in the same Europa League group.
Dynamo, the home side, are the undoubted favourites in this match. But in a post-Andriy Yarmolenko world, no one knows what to expect from Alyaksandr Khatskevich’s side. The winger, recently departed to Borussia Dortmund after years of incessant transfer speculation, spent eleven seasons at Dynamo and scored 137 goals. This places him fourth on the all-time scoring charts for the club.
Yarmolenko has been the focal point of Dynamo’s attack for years, and Khatskevich’s biggest challenge so far will be adjusting the squad to account for his absence. 34-year old winger Oleh Husyev returned to the club following a brief retirement and is one option as a replacement, though in the twilight of his career he is mainly used off the bench and is unlikely to last as a substitute.
The talented 19-year old Viktor Tsyhankov usually competes with the Paraguayan Derlis González for the starting spot on the left wing, but with Yarmolenko’s right wing spot now vacant Khatskevich may move his players around. In fact, this is exactly what happened at the weekend during Dynamo’s encounter with Oleksandriya, with Tsyhankov shifted over to Yarmolenko’s former position. Whether this is a preview of what is to come on Thursday remains to be seen.
Regardless of how well Dynamo can adjust to the new reality without their talismanic star, the side should have enough talent to overcome the Albanian side, who are making their second appearance in the group stages of the Europa League. Dynamo have been perfect at home so far this season, and anything short of three points against Skënderbeu will be a huge disappointment early in the season.
Dynamo Kyiv vs Skënderbeu – Player to look out for:
Dieumerci Mbokani #70 – Dynamo Kyiv
For years the obvious choice for the player to watch has been, of course, Yarmolenko. But with his departure journalists have to dig a bit deeper into Dynamo’s squad to identify their key man. For this match, Dynamo’s path to victory may well lie through Dieumerci Mbokani. The Congolese striker, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Norwich and Hull City in England, has scored four goals so far in all competitions and has firmly established himself as Dynamo’s starting striker in Khatskevich’s 4-4-1-1 system. Despite getting himself into great positions and creating chances out of nothing, Mbokani has struggled to get on the scoresheet in Europe so far this campaign. If Dynamo are to have any European success, this will have to change quickly.
Ali Sowe #99 – Skënderbeu
On loan from Chievo Verona, Ali Sowe is Skënderbeu most recognisable name this season. The 23-year-old striker from Gambia joined Chievo four years ago, but has since spent most of his time on loan at various clubs in Italy—now with Skënderbeu Sowe hopes that consistent performance in the Europa League will pave the way for more playing time in Italy’s Serie A down the road. A tall and lanky striker Sowe will want to use his height to terrorise Kyiv’s backline.
Dynamo Kyiv vs Skënderbeu – Match facts:
- This is the first meeting between these clubs in an official competition, and the first time Dynamo had ever faced Albanian opposition in Europe.
- Skënderbeu met Ukrainian side Chornomorets Odessa in the playoff stage of the Europa League in 2013. They lost out on penalties after the sides exchanges 1-0 home victories.
- Dynamo have won recorded 3-1 victories in both of their European fixtures so far this season.
- Unlike Dynamo, who ended up in this competition after having dropped down from the Champions League qualifying stage, Skënderbeu began their European journey in the first qualifying round of Europa League qualifying. They defeated UE Sant Julià of Andorra, FC Kairat of Kazakhstan, Mladá Boleslav of the Czech Republic, and Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia to get this far.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Dynamo Kyiv vs Skënderbeu Korçë 2-0
Dynamo Kyiv vs Skënderbeu – Possible lineup
Koval – Kendzera, Vida, Khacheridi, Morozyuk – Tsyhankov, Sydorchuk, Buyalskyi, González – Harmash – Mbokani
Head Coach: Alyaksandr Khatskevich
Shelhi – Mici, Jashanica, Radas, Vangjeli, Lilaj, Nimaga – James, Shkodra, Gavazaj – Sowe
Head Coach: Ilir Daja
Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.