AEK-FCDK preview: Enosis aim to write history
AGONAsport’s Shaun Nicolaides previews the blockbuster UEFA Europa League Last 32 clash between AEK Athens and Dynamo Kyiv.
For the first time in ten years, AEK find themselves involved in European competition in the spring. The Athenians have been simply unbeatable in the Europa League so far, not losing any of their eight fixtures in the tournament. AEK’s last defeat in Europe came in the UEFA Champions League against CSKA Moscow, but it’s worth noting that the Enosis only won the one match in the group stages. That 2:1 victory against Rijeka, coupled with five other draws, was enough for AEK to progress from Group D in second place behind AC Milan.
Dynamo Kyiv, a club boasting proud traditions in Ukraine and Europe, breezed through Group B, earning an impressive 13 points and losing just the one match. The Ukrainian giants were no match for Partizan, Young Boys and Skenderbeu, scoring 15 goals in six games. Just like AEK, Dynamo began their European campaign in the Champions League, losing in dramatic circumstances in the third qualifying round. Taking into account the club’s huge history and pedigree in Europe, the Kyiv outfit will feel that they have the right to be deemed slight favourites.
Similar to all Eastern European teams, Dynamo Kyiv are extremely difficult to beat when playing at home. Backed by their vocal supporters, Dynamo rarely lose in the Ukrainian capital, meaning that AEK cannot afford to slip up in Athens. In an ideal world, AEK need a large victory in Greece to build up a big advantage before playing in Ukraine, but in reality, any result where Dynamo don’t score an away goal would be promising. However, AEK failed to win in any of their three group stage matches at the Olympic Stadium. The Greeks somehow have to shut down Dynamo’s potent attack.
Head coach Manolo Jimenez made a few changes to AEK’s Europa League squad, adding Vasillis Barkas, Vassilis Lambropoulos and Masoud Shojaei, while removing Giannis Anestis alongside the departed Patito Rodriguez, Arnor Ingvi Traustason and Andreas Vlachomitros. Jimenez has no suspensions to worry about, but midfielder Panagiotis Kone received an injury against Asteras Tripolis at the weekend. Left-back Helder Lopes won’t be fit for this match.
Ukrainian defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, a former Shakhtar Donetsk player, should have extra motivation playing against Shakhtar’s main rivals.
Dynamo Kyiv, coached by 44-year old Belarusian Alyaksandr Khatskevich, lost influential Croatian defender Domagoj Vida to Besiktas in the winter transfer window. Goalkeeper Maksym Koval also left Kyiv, but 23-year old Georgi Bushchan had already taken over the role as number one. Peruvian defender Carlos Zambrano, who played with PAOK for the first half of the 2017/2018 season, is eligible to play for his new club in the Europa League against AEK. Forward Dmytro Khlyobas is the other player to be added to Dynamo’s European squad. Key midfielder Sergiy Sydorchuk is on the sidelines with a serious injury.
Interestingly, Dynamo’s last competitive match was back in December - a 0:0 draw with Oleksandriya in the Ukrainian Premier League. Their lack of match practice could play into AEK’s hands.
Tsintotas, Bakakis, Chygrynskiy, Vranjes, Galo, Simoes, Galanopoulos, Christodoulopoulos, Bakasetas, Livaja, Araujo.
Buschan, Kedziora, Khacheridi, Kadar, Pivaric, Bulalskyy, Shepelev, Garmash, Morozyuk, Gonzalez, Moraes.
11/02/18, AEK - Asteras Tripolis - 1:0 (Super League)
07/02/18, AEK - Olympiacos - 2:1 (Greek Cup)
04/02/18, Olympiacos - AEK - 1:2 (Super League)
27/01/18, AEK - Lamia - 2:0 (Super League)
24/01/18, Olympiacos - AEK - 0:0 (Greek Cup)
11/02/18, Sparsborg 08 - Dynamo Kyiv - 1:0 (Friendly)
08/02/18, Dynamo Kyiv - Tianjin Teda - 3:1 (Friendly)
03/02/18, Ostersunds - Dynamo Kyiv - 2:2 (Friendly)
27/01/18, Dynamo Kyiv - CSKA Sofia - 0:0 (Friendly)
26/01/18, Dynamo Kyiv - Osijek, 3:2 (Friendly)
AEK and Dynamo have never met before in European competition, but the Ukrainians do have a brief history against Greek clubs. You can read more information surrounding this on the following link.
As previously stated, AEK require a result in Athens to give themselves a chance to reach the Europa League Last 16. Dynamo Kyiv have a lot more experience at this level, but AEK, a team which haven’t lost for 22 consecutive games, are hopeful of writing new history. If AEK win the first match in Athens, or at least do not concede a goal, the Greeks will be in good shape ahead of the second leg in Kyiv.
AEK’s main advantage is the fact that Dynamo haven’t played competitive football since December. Yes, Dynamo have competed in friendly matches, but they cannot be compared to the real thing. The AEK defence will have to keep a close eye on tricky Brazilian forward Junior Moraes, the group stages’ joint top scorer with six goals. It will be interesting to see whether AEK play their typical pressing game, or if the team will concentrate on preventing Dynamo Kyiv from scoring an away goal.