The last time Chelsea played Dynamo Kiev, the squad was underperforming, the manager was under pressure, and there were rumors of a mutiny.
Time is a flat circle.
The “mutiny” back then (led by “The 3 Rats”, Iazzard, Cesl, and Costa) was later termed “palpable discord” by one Michael Emenalo, who is no longer here. Of course, neither is then Chelsea manager José Mourinho (sacked about a month after Chelsea’s 2-1 win), neither is then Dynamo manager Sergey Rebrov (now working in Hungary at Ferencváros), neither are most of the players. Only three survive on the Dynamo side (midfielders Sydorchuk, Buyalskyi, and Harmash) while a whopping ten from Chelsea who either played or were named to the bench in one of the two Champions League group games back in 2015-16 are still on the books (Willian, Hazard, Pedro, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Kenedy, Baba, Blackman, and Loftus-Cheek).
The comparison between now and back then doesn’t really hold up of course. Mourinho and Sarri will never be confused for each other, either in terms of their football or their status at the club. Chelsea went into that match in 2015 on the back four consecutive defeats and just one win in the previous eight(!). It was a tailspin Mourinho never recovered from. Now Chelsea are looking to start a new winning streak, having won two in a row against rivals Spurs and Fulham. Hope floats anew at the Bridge.
Date / Time: Thursday, March 7, 2019, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Slavko Vinčić — first Chelsea match for the 39-year-old fairly experienced UEFA official from Slovenia. Given how poorly VAR’s been doing this week, let’s hope we don’t have to rely on it.
Forecast: Gusty wind and rain
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); UniMás (USA); SONY TEN 2? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live, Univision Deportes En Vivo (USA); SONY LIV? (India)
Chelsea team news: Everyone’s healthy but many are tired, so a certain measure of rotation is expected. Ross Barkley is one booking away from a one-match suspension.
It’s been a week-plus of heightened emotions at the club (when is it not?), with Sarri coming close to a sacking, Chelsea coming close to a League Cup trophy, Kepa coming close to being summarily executed in the middle of Stamford Bridge, and then Chelsea coming close to restoring order in the universe by beating Spurs and Fulham in the span of 72 hours. Phew!
Never a boring day at Chelsea Football Club.
Dynamo Kiev team news: Dynamo, the “old money” of Ukrainian football (and Soviet, even, in the days of the legendary Valeriy Lobanovsky), as we wrote in the first preview back in 2015, have fallen firmly behind Shakhtar Donetsk in domestic football — Shakhtar are on course for their third consecutive title and ninth in the last dozen seasons — but continue to contest for European glories each and every season. They made it exactly this far last season as well, losing to Lazio in the Round of 16 after beating Greek opposition in the Round of 32 (AEK Athens last year, Olympiakos this year).
The Ukrainian Premier League recently resumed play after the winter break, and Kiev are currently riding a three-match winning streak in all competitions, conceding just once and scoring eight times. They are a young and rebuilding team (Yarmolenko & Co no more) — their current head coach, Alyaksandr Khatskevich is also their former youth coach (and former player) — and have little to lose and much to gain. They will look to keep it close in this first leg and hope to score a famous win in the second. It’s standard stuff, but they should not be underestimated.
The only name familiar to me, other than their three holdovers, is Hungarian international center back Tamás Kádár (who once made 18 appearances for Newcastle United in his early 20s). Dynamo might struggle for goals with winger and second-leading scorer Benjamin Verbič suspended and new January signing Fran Sol, a former Real Madrid youth prospect who was the Eredivisie’s top goalscorer over the 2.5 seasons he spent at Willem II, out with a shoulder injury.
Previously: Willian’s free kicks were a rare highlight in that shocking 2015-16 season and none were more perfect than his late winner against Dynamo at the Bridge.