Venue: NSK Olimpijs’kyj
Date: 24 February 2016
Kick off: 19:45
It’s a mild 7 degrees in Kiev today, but the players of Dynamo Kiev will be freezing their knickers off.
They’ve spent the last two months soaking up the rays in a Spanish training camp where they’ve taken refuge from a malevolent Ukrainian winter. Kiev have played 13 friendlies in that time, but they haven’t played a competitive game since beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in the Champions League group stages on December 9th.
Kiev progressed from a relatively friendly Group G that included a decomposing Chelsea side, FC Porto and European minnows Maccabi. A point proved to be the difference between themselves and 2004 champions Porto advancing into the last 16 of the competition, but theirs was a group filled with withering roses as opposed to the stinging nettle bushes in our own. This is the first time since 1999 that the club have reached the knockout stages of the tournament; a time when their current coach Serhiy Rebrov was banging in the goals for the side and a time when City were celebrating finishing second behind Charlton Athletic in the Football League.
The disparate transformations of both clubs means that we go into tomorrow’s tie as the overwhelming favourites. By no means are Dynamo Kiev a poor team, but it is City who nowadays, with our talented squad, superb infrastructure and ambitious owners, appear the more likely of the sides to replicate the Ukrainian outfit’s feat of reaching the Champions League semi final 17 years ago.
And reaching those heights is high on our list of priorities this season. That fact was evidenced on Sunday afternoon when Manuel fielded eight EDS regulars in our 5th FA Cup clash against Chelsea. The youngsters put up a tremendous fight, Tosin Adarabioyo, David Faupala and Manu García the pick of the bunch, but Chelsea’s seniors were far too strong and won the game 5-1.
Manuel again defended his decision to field such an inexperienced side in his pre-match press conference:
“If we had a completely fit squad, then a lot more experienced players could have played that game but that was not the case. We had just 13 players so I think that it is our intention to continue in all of the competitions.”
Injuries have certainly taken their toll on the squad this term, but the club’s infatuation with the Champions League ensured Pellegrini took his team selection to the extreme last weekend. No senior player with a role to play in Wednesday’s game in Kiev would be risked. Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré and David Silva didn’t even make the squad.
So there are high expectations for the team going into this one. The fans expect the club to show just how serious they are about this competition on the pitch and with a well rested first eleven at our disposal, we should be winning this game. Eliaquim Mangala and Bacary Sagna trained with the team this week and could return, and as long as Martin Demichelis is no where near the squad, I’m happy. We’ve expanded the stadium, we’ve built a multi-million pound training complex and we’ve even created our own clubs overseas; now all there’s left to do is to erect a detention centre where players like Demichelis, Caballero and Kolarov can be disciplined for such dire performances.
The hosts are without Vitorino Antunes who is suspended and Mykola Morozyuk who has a knee injury. We will have to keep an eye on winger Andriy Yarmolenko, though, who has eight goals and seven assists in the league for his side this season. The 26-year-old has been linked with moves to both Arsenal and Liverpool in recent times and is keen on a move to England.
“I watch the Premier League and La Liga regularly as they are the best leagues in Europe in my opinion. Although I have to say that English football holds the biggest attraction for me,” he told sportarena.com.
But the player who is considered as Ukraine’s finest product is also keen on crushing our hopes of reaching our first ever European quarter final. City and Kiev have met in a European last 16 fixture before – the Ukrainian’s were the victors in that one, winning 2-1 on aggregate, but five years on, many consider this a gentle and conquerable draw for us.
This will be a prickly one, but I’m going for a 2-1 away win.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-02-24″ default_css=”true”]