Chelsea will be looking to build up some momentum when they host Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of the Round of 16 tie in the UEFA Europa League.
It may have been smooth sailing for Chelsea as far as the UEFA Europa League is concerned, with the Blues strolling through the Group Stage unbeaten and advancing to the Round of 16 with a 5-1 aggregate win over Malmo FF. But, their domestic performances have left the fans wanting.
Chelsea have bowed out of both the domestic cups, losing 2-0 to Manchester United and facing defeat in penalties to Manchester City in the EFL Cup Final. Consecutive wins in London derbies – Tottenham and Fulham – has seen them be still in the running for a Top four finish. But, the level of performances needs to be upped.
Dynamo Kyiv on the other hand, barely edged Olympiacos in their Round of 32 tie but are on a four game winning streak in the Ukrainian Premier League, sitting in the second place, seven points behind leaders Shakhtar Donetsk.
The two teams last met during the Group Stage of the 2015/16 Champions League, with Chelsea winning their home tie while Dynamo Kyiv earned a 0-0 draw at home. Before they renew rivalries on Thursday, we take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri will be delighted with his medical staff and players, with a clean bill of health ahead of their Europa League first leg tie against Dynamo Kyiv.
Sarri is likely to field Willy Caballero in goal after the veteran proved himself in the 2-0 win over Tottenham. Kepa was restored for the Fulham game and should ideally be retained as the choice for the weekend. In defence, we should see Marcos Alonso come in for Emerson Palmieri on the left, with Andreas Christensen getting a chance alongside Antonio Rudiger in central defence.
Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to continue as the right-back. In midfield, Maurizio Sarri will likely go for a strong three, meaning Jorginho and N’Golo Kante should start. Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be the third man in midfield, with the youngster impressing whenever called upon.
The attacking lineup should be an interesting one. Sarri knows he has to rotate Gonzalo Higuain to get the best out of him and Olivier Giroud’s Europa League stats this season should see the Frenchman start upfront. Eden Hazard is likely to be on the left while Pedro reclaims his place on the right from Willian.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard
The Ukrainians also have a clean bill of health. But, unfortunately, Benjamin Verbic will be unavailable. The attacker is serving his suspension after accumulating another yellow card in the last match.
This is a very fresh looking squad from Kyiv, with no real household names in the first-team setup. Alyaksandr Khatskevich prefers the 4-2-3-1 setup and the same should be the way Dynamo Kyiv line up against Chelsea.
There aren’t expected to be many changes from the lineup that took the field in the second leg of the Round of 32 tie against Olympiacos. In fact, the only change is a forced one, with Benjamin Verbic unavailable. The attacker will likely be replaced by Sidcley.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Boyko; Kedziora, Burda, Shabanov, Mykolenko; Shepelev, Buyalskiy; Tsygankov, Shaparenko, Sidcley; Sol
1. Chelsea have kept three clean sheets in their last five games in all competitions.
2. Dynamo Kyiv have kept just two clean sheets in eight Europa League matches so far this campaign.
3. Chelsea are undefeated against Dynamo Kyiv in a total of two encounters between the two teams.
4. Olivier Giroud has six goals so far in the UEFA Europa League this campaign in just 5 starts (7 appearances in total).
5. Dynamo Kyiv will be missing their top scorer in the Europa League thus far – Benjamin Verbic (3 goals).
Player to Watch
Emerson has officially dethroned Marcos Alonso as a regular part of the starting eleven. Maurizio Sarri has also chosen to remain cryptic over Marcos Alonso’s absence in key matches. The Spaniard will likely be handed a start against Dynamo Kyiv and he must now perform to get back into the Chelsea starting eleven.
The Blues would love for Alonso to return to his usual self, which saw him being considered in the top full-backs in the world at one moment, thanks to his aggression and ability to contribute in attack.
Chelsea 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
The Blues haven’t really been tested in the Europa League thus far. But, Dynamo Kyiv could be a different beast. The Ukrainians have experience of playing in Europe year-in year-out and will be itching to get a big scalp while also looking to progress into the Quarter-Finals.
The home advantage and the fact that Maurizio Sarri will likely field a strong eleven is likely to give Chelsea the edge. Eden Hazard’s presence in attack should alone be enough to get a couple of goals to the home side. Expect Dynamo Kyiv to get past the Blues defence though, meaning the tie will be open and for the taking going into the reverse leg.