Chelsea head to Kiev with a healthy three goal lead ahead of the Europa league last 16 second leg tie. The first leg was a relative stroll with Chelsea much the better side. It was difficult for the away team to get out of their half as we controlled possession and pinned our opponents back with a high press which they were unable to deal with. Kiev opted for a 4-4-2 system in the first leg. We particularly profited in wide areas. Our three midfielders used the ball very well. Jorginho’s range of passing was fantastic, whilst Barkley and Kovacic got on the ball in good areas. Pulling wider and getting between the lines of the Kiev midfield and defence they were hard to pick up for the opposition midfield. The overlapping runs of Alonso and Zappacosta from the full back positions only exacerbated the problem for the Ukrainian side. Their wingers didn’t do a particularly good job of tracking these runs, but the positions that Kovacic and Barkley in particular were occupying meant that wide players Tsygankov and Buyalskiy were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Take right midfielder Tsygankov for example. By picking up Barkley when he pulled wide it prevented one of the central midfielders from being pulled out of position to cover, but in doing so would mean that the overlap of Alonso would be untracked. If he went to Alonso, then it would mean Barkley could be found in space. Shaparenko did on occasion drop in from the front line to aid the midfield, but the quick ball movement from Jorginho deeper rendered him ineffective. Luiz was also free to ping balls forward from the back line if not closed down by one of the forwards.
Given these issues for them in the first leg, they may consider changing to a three-man midfield to
counteract this. However, knowing that they must go for it to have any chance of progressing, it would also not be a surprise to see them play two up top. Sidcley may be brought in from the start for Kiev as both he and second half sub Garmash were arguably their most influential players in the first leg.
Dynamo Kiev have won their last three home matches, including despatching Olympiakos 1-0 to progress 3-2 on aggregate from the last round in this competition. They won 4-0 at home at the weekend against Arsenal Kiev and had previously beaten fourth placed Zorya by five goals to nil.
Dynamo are currently second in the Ukrainian top flight, seven points off Shakhtar who top the division. They will without doubt be a tougher prospect at home.
Chelsea head into the second leg off the back of a 1-1 draw at home against Wolves. Our form leading into this match had been much improved, but we didn’t use the ball well enough against the side from the Midland’s. Unable to take advantage of the space in wide areas and finding it difficult to make headway through the middle as the visitors sat deep, a draw was as much as we deserved. With a tough trip to Goodison Park on Sunday following our return from Kiev, a ground where we often struggle, its likely wholesale changes will be made in Ukraine. Expect Zappacosta and Alonso to occupy the full back positions, while Christensen will start at centre back. Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi are also likely starters, while Giroud will likely be looking to add to his impressive six goals in the competition thus far this season.
In a match where we have already put in the leg work, it will be important not to be complacent and let the home side gain momentum. A professional performance is in order. An away goal should kill the tie as it would leave the home team requiring five goals. If we could get one early this would provide the opportunity to make changes in the second half and rest players ahead of Sunday’s league match.