10 things Manchester City need to know about Dynamo Kyiv
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a lovely little trip out east to Ukraine for Bobby Mancini and fans from the blue half of Manchester today for their Europa League tie with Dynamo Kyiv.
Ã¢ÂÂTis a wonderful city. If you do happen to be in UkraineÃ¢ÂÂs capital, make sure you pop by and visit Rodina Mat and Pechersk Lavra, and for goodnessÃ¢ÂÂ sake wrap up warm at the Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium; itÃ¢ÂÂs parky out in Kyiv today.
TRAVEL: Mark's FourFourTwo guide to Kyiv
Anyway, hereÃ¢ÂÂs the lowdown on CityÃ¢ÂÂs Ukrainian opponents.
1) Huzzah for the Second ComingNot the second Stone Roses album, which wasn't their best work, was it? And after it took all that time to hit the shops. No, Never Mind the Bolsheviks is talking about Yuri SeminÃ¢ÂÂs return to Kyiv.
Ihor Surkis was a president who came bearing gifts at Christmas, giving Bilo-syni fans just what they wanted by delivering them their old gaffer on December 24th Ã¢ÂÂ albeit not in a big red Santa outfit, sadly. ItÃ¢ÂÂs the RussianÃ¢ÂÂs second spell as Dynamo numero uno, and since Valeri Gazzaev buggered off back to Alania Vladikavkaz, theyÃ¢ÂÂve been decidedly more chipper in Kyiv.
Semin won the Premier League title with Dynamo in 2009, before leaving to have another bash at managing Lokomotiv Moskva. The 63-year-old did rather well in Russia, steering the Railwaymen into the Europa League places Ã¢ÂÂ and heÃ¢ÂÂd still be in Moscow had there not been an almighty ding-dong between him and Loko president Olga Smorodskya. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt have any conflict with Olga Smorodskaya," said Semin. "SheÃ¢ÂÂs the one who has a conflict with football.Ã¢ÂÂ Ouch.
In that title-winning year Dynamo made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, dumping out Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain along the way, only to lose out to their rivals Shakhtar Donetsk. ItÃ¢ÂÂs played 20, won nine, drew seven and lost four while Semin has been at the helm of Dynamo on the continent.
And before you pipe up with the man-juice jokes, itÃ¢ÂÂs pronounced Ã¢ÂÂsyominÃ¢ÂÂ.
"Yoo-hoo! I'm back!"
2) Dynamo have looked fresh since retuning the winter breakIn their three games since Ukrainian football returned from its winter hols in Turkey, Dynamo have won the lot and havenÃ¢ÂÂt shown any signs of being ring-rusty. Semin masterminded scrumdiddlyumptious 4-1 and 4-0 tonkings over BeÃ ÂiktaÃ Â in the previous round of the Europa League, and at the weekend Dynamo recorded a very comfortable 2-0 away win in Donetsk over ShakhtarÃ¢ÂÂs cross-city chums/rivals, Metalurh.
That makes it nine matches unbeaten, and their veteran man in nets Oleksandr Shovkovskiy clocked up his 178th Premier League clean sheet on Saturday, too.
3) ItÃ¢ÂÂs something resembling a 4-4-2Ã¢ÂÂ¦ probablyAgainst BeÃ ÂiktaÃ Â Semin had them playing a 4-4-2 with Ongjen VukojeviÃÂ and Roman Eremenko (top of the assists chart in the Europa League, thank you very much) in the middle, with Oleh Gusev on the right and the very exciting 21-year-old Andriy Yarmolenko on the left. Artem Milevskiy will lead the line, with Andriy Shevchenko off him.
That said, Semin might opt for something a little more cautious to counter CityÃ¢ÂÂs attacking threat. Plus, Sheva missed the game in Donetsk, but NMTB would be very surprised if he isnÃ¢ÂÂt starting tonight.
4) Artem MilevskiyÃ¢ÂÂs the main man up topIf ManciniÃ¢ÂÂs been swotting up on Dynamo, heÃ¢ÂÂll know the Minsk-born Ukrainian international is going to be a real handful for his defence.
Milevskiy is an interesting character and didnÃ¢ÂÂt always see eye-to-eye with Gazzaev, but heÃ¢ÂÂs someone who Semin gets the best out of, and on his day the 26-year-old is a top forward. Tall, heÃ¢ÂÂs an out-and-out striker and scored five times in the group stages, but hasnÃ¢ÂÂt found the back of the net since. HeÃ¢ÂÂs a due a goal, then.
Milevskiy: Coming to get City?
5) Dynamo will also have a central defender missingTaras Mikhalik buggered his knee in the first leg against BeÃ ÂiktaÃ Â and hasnÃ¢ÂÂt played a part in DynamoÃ¢ÂÂs past two fixtures. The good news for the Ukrainian international is that he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt require an operation as the club initially suspected, but tonightÃ¢ÂÂs game will come too soon for the 27-year-old and Mikhalik will sit this one out.
Leandro Almeida also missed the Metalurh fixture; he will return to partner Ayila Yussef at the heart of the defence. Yevhen Khacheridi deputised in his absence at the weekend. Georgi Popov will start on the left and Danilo Silva down the right to complete the back four.
6) ShevaÃ¢ÂÂs still got itHe might not be the Andriy Shevchenko of days gone by, but write the 34-year-old off at your peril. He scored in both matches against BeÃ ÂiktaÃ Â, bringing his total in Europe to 66 Ã¢ÂÂ 24 of them for Dynamo, putting him ahead of club legend Maxim Shatskikh and level with fellow Ballon dÃ¢ÂÂOr winner Oleh Blokhin.
After his dismal spell at Chelsea, how Shevchenko would love a goal tonight to show English fans heÃ¢ÂÂs still a force. (For those into their stats: Sheva's old strike partner Serhiy Rebrov leads Dynamo's European goalscoring charts with 30.)
7) No yellow cards for Dynamo please, Mr RefereeShevchenko, Milevskiy, Eremenko, Khacheridi and Roman Zozulya (plus Mikhalik) are all a booking away from missing the second leg at the City of Manchester Stadium next week.
8) Semin wants revenge for 1999Semin twice won the title with Lokomotiv Moskva, but he wasn't able to get his hands on a European trophy. He could have, had it not been for that blasted Mancini: in 1999 CityÃ¢ÂÂs manager was part of the Lazio team that dumped the Russians out of the Cup WinnersÃ¢ÂÂ Cup at the semi-final stage, denying them a first appearance in a major European final.
Lazio lift it in '99 (Mancini at back)
9) Dynamo are due some success against an English opponentThatÃ¢ÂÂs NMTB trying to put a positive spin on DynamoÃ¢ÂÂs pretty dismal record against English teams: played 18, won three, drew five, lost 10 is how it reads and theyÃ¢ÂÂve been defeated in both of their previous fixtures in Manchester (against United) without scoring.
Dynamo have lost eight times and drew once in England. On home turf itÃ¢ÂÂs slightly better; only Manchester United and Liverpool have won there in nine visits from English sides.
10) City are damn lucky Oleksandr Aliyev is ineligibleWise men protect their crown jewels when Oleksandr Aliyev is lining up a free-kick. This boy can hit a football like you wouldn't believe. When Semin swapped Kyiv for Moscow, he took with him DynamoÃ¢ÂÂs star midfielder Oleksandr Aliyev, another player whom heÃ¢ÂÂd been able to get the best out of where others had failed and, at least on the field, the Ukrainian internationalÃ¢ÂÂs first season in Russia was a big success.
With his bossÃ¢ÂÂs departure, however, Aliyev himself began angling for a move Ã¢ÂÂ specifically back to Ukraine to join Semin Ã¢ÂÂ and things turned very ugly with our friend Olga Smorodskaya. Aliyev scored 14 times in 25 games for Lokomotiv last year, but sealed a move back to Dynamo just before the transfer window closed. HeÃ¢ÂÂll be a real asset for the club; itÃ¢ÂÂs just where the dickens everyone will fit in.