A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s away leg against Dynamo Kiev.
This week Chelsea fly out to Ukraine for their second leg match against Dynamo Kiev. The Blues take a 3-0 lead with them after the first leg and most will believe that they already have one foot in the quarter finals.
However, a visit to the passionate cauldron of the Olympic Stadium, in front of nearly 70,000 locals is not for the faint hearted. An early goal for the hosts and the volume will be turned up another notch and then we really will have a tie on our hands.
So the Chelsea team will need to have calm heads and as much control over the game as possible. Maurizio Sarri’s possession style of football should be the ideal tactic going in to this match with such a lead, but the condition of the pitch may hamper his players.
The Blues can’t be described as a free scoring team and the Italian must not assume they will score what would be a tie closing away goal. Dynamo did not muster an attempt on target in the first leg, but they threatened sporadically to get an away goal that would have lifted they chances.
With the Ukrainians’s main threat coming from counter attacking football, they will surely pose more problems for the Chelsea defence in their own stadium. So The Blues will need to be vigilant and solid at the back.
Sarri will keep with Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal and bring Andreas Christensen back in to central defence in place of David Luiz. Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain will both be rested, with Willian and Olivier Giroud replacing them.
Other changes could well depend on fitness levels. Surely preference would go to Emerson Palmieri, Davide Zappacosta and Ross Barkley with their speed and variation of play. Unlike most opponents, Dynamo did not attempt to keep tight on Jorginho, and the Italian had a very influential match in the first leg. The host’s will surely adjust for that and so The Blues will need to improve their movement.
Once again most of the line up talk with be about Chelsea’s youngsters. It is unlikely Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu will start, but assuming the match is going well, they could well make appearances. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will only start if Sarri and his medical team believe he can play a full 90 minutes without hindering his chances to play in the next match.
Chelsea have a tricky away trip to Everton on Sunday, giving themselves only just over 48 hours recovery time back in the UK. With the battle for top 4 hotting up, that is a crucial match for The Blues.
So once again, Sarri has plenty of contradicting options to juggle with. The need to qualify as smoothly as possible against needing to rest key players. How strong a line up will be required against needing his best team just barely 2 days later for another big away day.
Overall though, Sarri’s team need to go into their match against Dynamo aiming to win on the night and not to just hold on to their lead. They will need to have belief that they can win and not just freeze in the hostile environment that awaits them.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their previous 5 away European away trips, winning 4 of them. Keeping that run going and putting in a confidence winning performance that take them into the last 8 and will be the perfect tonic ahead of another key Premier League away clash.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue