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Preview: Chelsea vs. Dynamo Kiev - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg between Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev.

Chelsea continue their quest for a second Europa League crown in as many attempts with a double-header against Dynamo Kiev in the last 16.

The Blues have won seven of their eight European matches this term and have been backed as the favourites to go all the way and lift the trophy, just like they did in 2012.


Olivier Giroud and Ross Barkley celebrate Chelsea's opening goal against Malmo in the Europa League on February 14, 2019.© Reuters

It may not have been at the top of Maurizio Sarri's list of priorities when being appointed as Chelsea manager last summer, but as the Europa League reaches its latter stages it has now seemingly taken on far more importance.

UEFA's secondary competition has provided Sarri with some solace at times of need, most notably against Malmo in the first knockout round last month. On the back of losses to Bournemouth and Manchester United, the two legs of their last-32 tie came at just the right time to restore some morale.

Even accounting for their penalty shootout loss to Manchester City, this has been a positive week or so for Chelsea and their under-fire manager. The Blues' performance at Wembley gave Sarri a few more days to prove himself, and he has managed to do that by masterminding back-to-back league wins over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham.

A one-goal win away to a poor Fulham side is hardly likely to be enough to fully win over his doubters, but Chelsea played some good football at Craven Cottage and, perhaps more importantly from Sarri's perspective, fans even chanted the name of Jorginho - a player who has borne the brunt of criticism in his debut campaign in English football.

The target for Sarri now is to keep this winning run going, and the visit of Dynamo - previously without a win on English soil - provides a good chance to keep the momentum ticking along.

Only two of Chelsea's remaining 10 fixtures comes against top-six sides and, should they win their game in hand, they will move into fourth place in the Premier League. For a season that supposedly fell apart not so long ago, the Blues could still add a major trophy to their collection and qualify for the Champions League.

The Europa League would also provide a direct route into next season's Champions League, of course, and after cruising through Group L with 16 points from a possible 18, before brushing aside Malmo 5-1 on aggregate, it is clear to see why they are ahead of Arsenal, Inter Milan, Sevilla and Napoli as the bookies' 2018-19 favourites.

Chelsea's only previous appearance at this stage of the Europa League was back in 2012-13, when beating Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti over two legs. Like that season under Rafael Benitez, the Blues will be aiming to go all the way this time around to end a so-far underwhelming campaign on a high.

Recent form in Europa League: WWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWLWW

Dynamo Kiev

Fran Sol celebrates scoring for Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League on February 21, 2019© Reuters

After finishing above Rennes, Astana and Jablonec to top Group K, Dynamo held off Olympiacos over two legs in the first knockout round to set up this tricky test against Chelsea.

The record 15-times Ukrainian champions drew 2-2 away to Olympiacos before getting the job done with a 1-0 victory on home soil in the reverse fixture through a first-half goal from new signing Fran Sol.

Dynamo are winless in their last nine first-leg knockout matches in the Europa League, including that four-goal draw in Greece last month, though their last such victory did come against English opposition in March 2011 when they beat Manchester City in the last 16.

Alyaksandr Khatskevich's side may have previously failed to pick up victory on English soil in 14 previous attempts, but they did draw 0-0 at the Etihad Stadium on their most recent visit in March 2016, three weeks on from a 3-1 loss in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie.

Keeping this tie alive will be the priority for Dynamo, who finished as runners-up to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukrainian top flight last term, seeing them enter the Champions League qualifying round. Defeat to Ajax in the playoffs led to them dropping into the Europa, and their hopes of a first success in this competition remain alive and well.

The Kiev club participated in the group phase of the Europa League for a sixth time and, like four of the previous five, they went through thanks to three wins and two draws, qualifying with a game to spare.

Dynamo have never made it beyond the quarter-final stage, but two of their previous four round-of-16 ties have ended victorious and have both come against English clubs - Man City in 2011 and Everton in 2015.

Having ended a run of six winless European away matches with a 2-1 win at Rennes on matchday three, followed up by a 1-0 victory at Astana and a 2-2 draw at Olympiacos, Khatskevich's side are unbeaten in six matches outside of Ukraine and have lost just one of their last nine Europa League away games, scoring at least once in all of them.

That type of form suggests that this tie may not be quite as one-sided as many people expect.

Recent form in Europa League: WWWLDW
Recent form (all competitions): DWDWWW

Team News

Callum Hudson-Odoi in action for Chelsea on December 26, 2018© Reuters

Sarri is expected to continue with his rotation policy for this match, which comes three days before the Premier League visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Italian made a huge call by dropping and then recalling Kepa Arrizabalaga between games with Tottenham and Fulham last week. Kepa performed well on his return to the side on the banks of the Thames, but Willy Caballero tends to be preferred in the Europa League, starting the Blues' last two matches.

Olivier Giroud has had to rely on cup competitions for playing time, as have a number of other fringe players, and the Frenchman appears certain to replace Gonzalo Higuain through the middle on Thursday.

Academy products Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also pushing for inclusion, which would give the likes of N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard a welcome breather.

Dynamo will be without suspended winger Benjamin Verbic, meanwhile, as he picked up another yellow against Olympiacos last time out to trigger an automatic ban.

That is a big loss for Khatskevich as Verbic has scored 12 times this season, including a double in the comfortable win against Zorya Luhansk last week.

Versatile Brazilian wideman Sidcley may therefore come in for his first appearance of 2019, but there is unlikely to be a place for Tamas Kadar in the starting lineup because he has managed just a few minutes of playing time this calendar year.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso; Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kovacic; Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Willian

Dynamo Kiev possible starting lineup:
Boyko; Kedziora, Burda, Shabanov, Mykolenko; Shepelev, Buyalskiy; Tysgankov, Shaparenko, Sidcley; Sol

Head To Head

This will mark the third time that Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev have met in a competitive fixture, with the Blues winning one and drawing one of the previous meetings.

Those two games came in the group stage of the 2015-16 Champions League - a goalless draw in Kiev was followed by a 2-1 win in London for the Premier League side.

Willian scored a late free kick in the second of those games, and he has played a big part in this year's Europa campaign for Chelsea, contributing to seven goals in total.

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We say: Chelsea 2-1 Dynamo Kiev

Dynamo have proved to be tough to beat away from home in Europe of late, but Chelsea have an incredible record in the Europa League and, even if changes are made, they should have the quality to take a lead to Eastern Europe for the return match next week.

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Who will win Thursday's Europa League clash between Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev?

Dynamo Kiev
Dynamo Kiev
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Callum Hudson-Odoi in action for Chelsea on December 26, 2018
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