So, it’s back to European duties on Thursday as Dynamo Kiev visit Stamford Bridge in the last sixteen of the Europa League. With the first leg at home, a couple of goals advantage would be good to take back to Kiev next Thursday.
With what looked like players tiring at Craven Cottage on Sunday, will Sarri rotate and play Loftus-Cheek and/or Hudson-Odoi? Don’t bank on it, but it would be good to see some fresh legs operating with some skill and pace. Sarri said today that the media have to ease the pressure on Hudson-Odoi. I personally think that Callum can handle pressure and we’d only see if he’s pressurised when and if he plays games. Of course, 18 is a young age, but a lack of games will frustrate the player, which may push him nearer to leaving for Bayern, or elsewhere. Sarri also said that he’s never seen an 18 year old at the top – well, both Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney spring to mind, along with our own Ray Wilkins, who was 18 when he captained Chelsea.
In other team news, Pedro could come back in to replace Willian with Giroud stepping in For Higuain. Sarri is now confusing us all, as there was no straight Kovacic for Barkley substitution on Sunday, what is the world coming to? David Luiz could also be in contention to come back in to the eleven after a Sunday rest. Luiz explained today that Sarri is a great human and every Chelsea player is 100% buying into his philosophy, let’s see.
This will be Kiev’s second visit to Stamford Bridge in recent seasons, the last was on November 4, 2015 when we won 2-1 in the group stages of the Champions League. Dynamo are currently second in the Ukrainian Premier League, seven points behind Shakhtar Donetsk. Dynamo played on Saturday, where they beat Desna 1-2, so they’ve had an extra 24 hours rest and recuperation ahead of the game.
Previously in the round of 32, Dynamo qualified by beating Olympiacos; away goals by Buyalskyi and Verbič were enough to draw 2-2 in Greece and a single goal by Fran Sol, in Kiev, saw the Ukrainians qualify. Dynamo Kiev are winless in their last nine Europa League games away from home. We should be too strong at home, but we really do need to keep a clean sheet as Dynamo could be a different proposition in Kiev.
Did You Know: Ihor Surkis, the President of Dynamo Kiev was the head of the repair and construction service at Kyivzhytlorembudmontazh between 1981 and 1988. That’s just something that you can tell your mates pre game in the pub over a beer … or not.
The Europa League is important for our progression to the Champions League next season, I’ll take us to win on the night by 3-0 (in my dreams!) but clearly this is an opportunity to win the competition, let’s back the boys all the way to Baku.