The Europa League round of 16 has thrown up some interesting ties, but the clash with the most European pedigree sees Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea take on Dynamo Kyiv with a quarter final place at stake.
It’s a new opponent on the European stage for the Blues, and a relatively unknown one for those of us who don’t follow the Ukrainian Premier League – so here are our seven things to know about Chelsea’s last 16 opponents.
They’re the Most Successful Team in Ukrainian History…By a Lot
While Shakhtar Donetsk are the team to beat in Ukraine at present, if you look a bit further back, it becomes clear that Kyiv are the Big Dogs.
They have the most league titles with 15, the most consecutive league titles with nine in a row between 1992/93 and 2000/01, and registered the most wins ever recorded in a single domestic season with their 27 at their peak in 2000.
In addition to that, no domestic side has ever topped the 84 points they amassed (from a possible 90) in the same season, and the 87 goals they scored in the 1994/95 campaign is also a Ukrainian record.
So yeah, they have a bit of history.
They Haven’t Won a Domestic Title Since 2016
Shakhtar’s emergence as a domestic force, however, has rocked the vice grip with which Kyiv once held the Ukrainian Premier League, as the Miners have won the last two titles, with Dynamo finishing as runners up on each occasion.
To make matters worse, that barren run looks all but certain to be extended to three years, as Shakhtar sit seven points clear of their rivals after 18 games. With that being the case, there’s every chance they’ll be more keen than ever to get one over on the Blues.
They Overcame Olympiacos to Get This Far
It could have gone either way, but after registering two away goals in the 2-2 draw in the first leg in Turkey, Kyiv were able to get the job done on home turf and see off some strong opposition in the shape of Olympiacos to earn the tie with Chelsea.
They also overcame Arsenal’s last 16 opponents Rennes to win their group, so shouldn’t be taken lightly based on their showings so far.
Fran Sol Has Hit the Ground Running
After a prolific first half of the season with Willem II in the Eredivisie, with 17 goals in 20 appearances, Spanish striker Fran Sol arrived on the scene at Kyiv in January, and played his first two games in his new colours against Olympiacos.
After a quiet first leg, he was the hero for the home encounter, scoring the goal that separated the two sides.
Another player to keep an eye on is 21-year-old winger Viktor Tsyhankov, who has managed two goals and four assists in the Europa League so far, and is averaging a goal every two games having played every minute of the Premier League season.
The Andriy Shevchenko Connection
It’s nice to establish a bit of common ground.
Chelsea never quite got the best out of Andriy Shevchenko after his high profile £30m move from Milan in 2006, but the same definitely can’t be said of Dinamo Kyiv, for whom he scored 49 goals in 111 games spread over two spells.
He’s now the manager of the Ukrainian national team, and a bona fide legend in the country, who remains highly thought of at both of his former clubs.
They Have Some European Pedigree
All things considered, historically, Kyiv are a pretty big deal.
They’ve won three European trophies in their history – most recently the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1986 – compared to Chelsea’s five.
Their best showing in the Europa League (or equivalent) came in the 2009 UEFA Cup, where they lost out, ironically, to Shakhtar, who went on to win the trophy.
They Don’t Tend to Fare Too Well Against English Sides
Their record against English sides in Europe is…poor.
Two 1-1 draws with Stoke City in the group stages of the 2011/12 tournament represent their last two meetings with English opposition, while a victory over Manchester City in the last 16 the season before accounts for one of just four wins over English sides in their history.
They’ve lost 11 of their 22 meetings, and have a goal difference of -10 over the matches.
They’ve never played Chelsea before, however.