Mark Temnycky –
Chelsea vs Dynamo Kyiv – Thursday, March 7, 20:00 GMT/21:00 CET – Stamford Bridge, London, England
The 2018/19 UEFA Europa League is back underway. Chelsea will host Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of the competition’s Round of 16. The state of affairs at both clubs, however, is drastically different.
Chelsea is undergoing yet another managerial crisis. After sacking Antonio Conte during the summer of 2018, the London club hired Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea’s new manager. Known for his tactics, which see footballers play a fast-paced, possession-based style of attacking football, it was believed Sarri would be a good replacement for the club.
What transpired, however, was very different. Over the span of eight months, Sarri’s players have failed to adapt to “Sariball.” The Chelsea fans have become frustrated, as the Italian manager has been reluctant to make changes to his tactics, and they have questioned some of Chelsea’s purchases over the previous two transfer windows.
Moreover, Sarri appears to have lost the respect of some of his players. For example, during the EFL Cup Final against Manchester City, Sarri’s Chelsea found themselves deep in added time, and the Italian considered making a tactical switch as a penalty shootout drew nearer. Sarri prepared a substitution for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Kepa refused to be substituted. This enraged Sarri, who nearly exited the stadium in outrage. Kepa was then dropped in the match against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek.
Aside from the drama with the fans and players, Chelsea are also struggling in the English Premier League this season. The London-based club currently sits in sixth place in the EPL and looks to be falling behind their rivals for a UEFA Champions League qualification place for next season. The UEFA Europa League will now be Chelsea’s saving grace to qualify for European football’s most prestigious club competition. Should they win the Europa League, they will be granted an automatic place in next season’s Champions League. The travelling Dynamo Kyiv, however, stand in their way.
The conditions at Dynamo Kyiv are very different. The Kyivan club comfortably sits in second place of the Ukrainian Premier Liha and is seven points behind current league leaders Shakhtar Donetsk. Dynamo did beat Shakhtar at the start of the 2018/19 season in the Ukrainian Super Cup Final and will face Shakhtar in the Ukrainian Cup Final this April. All things considered, Alyaksandr Khatskevich and his men are enjoying a rather successful season.
Dynamo nearly qualified for this year’s Champions League, although were eliminated by Ajax in the final round of European qualification. As a result, the Ukrainian club was dumped into the Europa League. Despite some questionable performances, which saw Dynamo draw points in two matches from very favourable positions, the Ukrainians managed to finish first in their group.
They then earned a hard-fought draw in Athens against Olympiakos in the Europa League Round of 32 before seeing off their Greek opponents at home. Now, as they prepare for the next round, they will travel to London for the first leg of the Europa League Round of 16. Should Dynamo hope to advance to the competition’s Quarterfinals, they will need to channel their performance in Athens.
Dynamo are also fortunate in that they have a near-fully fit squad, which will allow Khatskevich to start his strongest lineup. With the likes of Fran Sol, Viktor Tsyhankov and Benjamin Verbič, the Ukrainians will look to strike on the counter-attack. Khatskevich’s team of young players has already impressed their viewers in the previous round, and they will look to turn some heads on Thursday as they travel to England.
Chelsea vs Dynamo Kyiv – Players to Watch:
Eden Hazard #10 – Chelsea
The versatile Eden Hazard can play on either wing, as a striker or in a false-nine position. Hazard’s ability and creativity on the ball, in addition to his pace, has allowed him to defeat opponents in one on one situations, and he has become Chelsea’s preferred penalty taker. Hazard is Chelsea’s main man and it is no wonder why he has been highly sought after by Real Madrid for several seasons. Given his experience and leadership role within the club, Chelsea will rely upon the Belgian in order to overcome their Ukrainian opposition. Hazard has won the UEFA Europa League, EFL Cup, FA Cup and 2014/15 and 2016/17 EPL titles with Chelsea. His career in England has simply been remarkable.
Viktor Tsygankov #15 – Dynamo Kyiv
Following the departure of Andriy Yarmolenko, Viktor Tsygankov has done well to fill the former’s role at Dynamo. The prolific midfielder has scored two goals and registered four assists in the Europa League thus far. Moreover, he has scored nine goals and registered three assists in 20 Ukrainian Premier Liha matches this season. Should Dynamo look to advance to the Europa League Quarterfinals, they will heavily rely upon their current star. Tsygankov, who is rumored to joinTottenham Hotspur this upcoming summer, could also use this two-legged tie to showcase his talent in front of his potential future employer.
Chelsea vs Dynamo Kyiv – Match Stats
- Chelsea overcame Malmö FF in the Europa League Round of 32 while Dynamo Kyiv defeated Olympiacos.
- Chelsea and Dynamo previously faced each other in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. Chelsea won the previous match at Stamford Bridge.
- Chelsea and Dynamo Kyiv also share a unique connection through former Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko. The current national team manager of Ukraine has been spotted in the stands at Stanford Bridge on numerous occasions and was present when these two sides played against one another in November 2015.
- Chelsea’s Charly Musonda, Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta and Gary Cahill are all sidelined due to injury. Marco van Ginkel is out for the season.
- Dynamo Kyiv are without the injured Josip Pivarić.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Chelsea vs Dynamo Kyiv – 3-1
Chelsea vs Dynamo Kyiv – Lineups
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Luiz, Emerson; Kanté, Jorginho, Kovačić; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Boyko – Kędziora, Burda, Shabanov, Mykolenko – Sydorchuk, Shepelyev – Tsygankov, Shaparenko, Verbič – Sol
Manager: Alyaksandr Khatskevich
Mark Temnycky reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTem33