DYN-AEK Preview: Greeks travel to Ukraine in hope
AGONAsport’s Shaun Nicolaides previews the decisive UEFA Europa League Last 32 second leg between Dynamo Kyiv and AEK Athens in Ukraine.
Following the gripping 1:1 draw in Athens last week, AEK travelled to the Ukrainian capital knowing they need to score a goal to have any hope of advancing to the Last 16. The Enosis dominated large parts of the first leg in Greece, however stout Dynamo Kyiv defending kept AEK at bay until substitute Astrit Ajdarevic equalised with only ten minutes remaining. Talented 20-year old midfielder Viktor Tsygankov had gifted Dynamo a potentially precious away goal in the first half, taking advantage of a poor mistake by AEK’s usually reliable Michalis Bakakis.
Without doubt, Dynamo Kyiv hold the right to be called favourites for this match. The Ukrainian giants have gone six European games unbeaten at the impressive Olimpiyskiy Stadium, and while the game in Athens was their first official fixture of 2018, Dynamo are warming up nicely and defeated Olimpik Donetsk 1:0 at home on the weekend. Their away goal means they are in pole position, especially when you take into account that AEK are missing influential defender Ognjen Vranjes and forward Marko Livaja due to suspension.
Nevertheless, it certainly isn’t a hopeless situation for AEK. The Athenians are unbeaten for an amazing 24 successive matches in all competitions, boasting a fantastic never-say-die attitude. The situation could even suit AEK even more. While Dynamo won’t be sure whether to attack or sit back in defence, AEK have no other option than to eventually take the initiative and put pressure on the Ukrainians.
Dynamo goalkeeper Denys Boyko, a previous Europa League finalist with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, was at fault for AEK’s equalising goal in Athens, but he’s a safe pair of hands and will surely start. The hosts have no suspensions to worry about, but Dieumerci Mbokani and Sergiy Sydorchuk are on the sidelines with serious injuries. Denis Garmash, Derlis Gonzalez and Mykola Shaparenko, who all trained outside of the main group this week, have been cleared to play.
Unfortunately for Enosis fans, Manolo Jimenez cannot call upon the services of Vranjes and Livaja after the pair earned suspensions in the first match. Just to make matters worse, key left-back Helder Lopes and experienced midfielder Panagiotis Kone stayed in Greece with injuries. On the other hand, defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy is ready to play, as is creative midfielder Shojaei Masoud. Jimenez started the struggling Viktor Klonaridis in the first game instead of Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, but the latter will be hoping to retake his place in Kyiv.
Boyko, Kedziora, Khacheridi, Kadar, Morozyuk, Bulyalskyy, Shepelev, Garmash, Tsygankov, Gonzalez, Moraes.
Barkas, Bakakis, Chygrynskiy, Lampropoulos, Galo, Simoes, Galanopoulos, Christodoulopoulos, Bakasetas, Masoud, Araujo.
18/02/18, AEK - Xanthi - 4:0 (Super League)
15/02/18, AEK - Dynamo Kyiv - 1:1 (Europa League)
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)
18/02/18, Dynamo Kyiv - Olimpik Donetsk - 1:0 (Ukrainian Premier League)
15/02/18, AEK - Dynamo Kyiv - 1:1 (Europa League)
11/02/18, Sparsborg 08 - Dynamo Kyiv - 2:2 (Friendly)
08/02/18, Dynamo Kyiv - Tianjin Teda - 3:1 (Friendly)
03/01/18, Ostersunds - Dynamo Kyiv - 2:2 (Friendly)
Dynamo boss Alyaksandr Khatskevich stated that his players won’t relax in this match. “Our task is to qualify for the next stage,” said Khatskevich. “The opponents play an aggressive style of game, I don’t think they’ve changed since the first match. The Greek club have enough quality players to replace those who are suspended. “
Viktor Tsygankov, Dynamo’s hero in Athens, thinks it will be easier for his team in Kyiv. “We have already played against each other, so we know what AEK are capable of. With our fans behind us, I think that it will be a lot easier for us.”
Manolo Jimenez opted to be cautious in his pre-match press-conference. “We have 90 minutes to show our best football, but Dynamo won’t let us do that easily. One mistake in the first match led to us not achieving the right result in Greece, so it’s difficult to predict how things will go.”
Ukrainian centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy wasn’t feeling nostalgic about returning to his homeland. “I have no nostalgia about coming back home, the fact that I’m in Ukraine is in last place of my priorities,” revealed the 31-year old. “The main thing is that after this game, we won’t regret how we performed.”
The man in the middle for the Kyiv showdown is Matej Jug, a Slovenian official. The 37-year old has only worked over one match involving a Greek team, refereeing Olympiacos’ 0:1 loss to Levante in the 2012 Europa League. This season, he notably took charge of APOEL Nicosia’s 1:1 draw at Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. He was also the referee for AEK Larnaca’s 1:3 setback to Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League qualifiers last summer.
AEK may start cautiously in Kyiv, but as time rolls on, the Greeks will have to throw everything at Dynamo to score that all-important away goal. Remember that if the game finishes as a score draw higher than 1:1, AEK do progress to the Last 16. AEK have drawn three of four Europa League away matches 0:0 this season, but a repeat result would see Dynamo Kyiv through.
Despite the injury and suspension problems, AEK have nothing to fear. Dynamo Kyiv are a formidable force at the Olimpiyskiy Arena, but if the Kitrinomavri show their true potential, they can shock their higher profile opponents. The chances really are 50/50.