Monday, 17 September 2012

PSG in the Champions League: An idiot's guide to Dynamo Kiev

So excited are the club about tomorrow night’s clash with Dynamo Kiev that they started playing the Champions League music at half-time during Friday night’s win over Toulouse. I like to think it’s been playing on repeat ever since to get the office staff in the mood.

PSG are in Group A, along with Dinamo Zagreb, Porto, and tomorrow night’s opponents Kiev. And though there <cliché>are no easy games in the Champions League</cliché> the general feeling seems to be that the draw has been kind to us. So, other than the fact that they’re unlikely to chicken out of any challenges (sorry), what do we know about Kiev? Read on:

A brief history: Formed in 1927, the initially state-sponsored Dinamo were the most successful club in the top division of Soviet football, winning 13 titles before the Iron Curtain fell in 1991. Their list of former players reads like a veritable who’s who of Russian football, while their managerial alumni includes two of the modern game’s most influential coaches – Victor Maslov, who is credited with inventing 4-4-2, and Valery Lobanovsky. If you’re interested in such things Jonathan Wilson’s excellent book, Inverting the Pyramid, explores their work in more detail.

Since Ukraine became independent, Dynamo’s habitual winning of the league has continued unabated, and they have 13 national titles to their name. Their domestic dominance has been interrupted in recent seasons due to the financial clout of rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, who have won the league in each of the last three years. In the European Cup/Champions League, they have been to the semi-finals three times, most recently in 1998/99 when, inspired by deadly front pair Sergei Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko, they breezed into the last four before being defeated by Bayern Munich.

The manager: Former Russian national team coach Yuri Semin is in his second spell in charge of Dynamo. He first managed the club between 2007-09, winning the league in 2009 and reaching the Europa League semi-finals. After winning the league he quit to return to one of his former clubs, Lokomotiv Moscow, but was back in Kiev after one season. Since his return Dynamo have finished second in the league twice, and the pressure will be on Semin to recapture the title from Donetsk.

The players: Dynamo’s squad includes goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy who, amazingly, was on the bench last time they played PSG in the Champions League back in 1994/95. Goalkeepers eh, you’ve got to love their durability. Shovkovsky is unlikely to feature, but their side should include impressive Ukraine internationals Andriy Yarmolenko and Denys Garmash, both of whom were rested for the weekend’s 3-1 league win over Karpaty Lviv.

Dynamo’s foreign contingent includes Brazilian striker Dudu, who is notable a) because he’s called Dudu, and b) because he wears the ludicrous squad number of 99. He is unlikely to play, but PSG will be facing Portuguese midfield destroyer Miguel Veluso and the talented Croatian playmaker Niko Kranjcar, who scored twice in that win over Karpaty Lviv. Our old friend Taye Taiwo, who is on loan from AC Milan, will probably start at left-back. You’ll remember him from his time at Marseille, notably when he took to the microphone after OM beat Montpellier in the 2011 Coupe de la Ligue final and led an expletive-filled sing-song at PSG’s expense. The Nigerian is bound to get an, ahem, warm reception from the Parc-des-Princes faithful.

We’ve met before: Last time PSG faced Dynamo was in the 2009 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, and saw Dynamo progress thanks to a 3-0 second leg win in Kiev. The first leg at the Parc had ended goalless. In the Champions League we met in the aforementioned 1994/95 campaign, with PSG winning 1-0 at the Parc thanks to a goal from George Weah. A similar result tomorrow night would be most welcome.


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