It is a first-leg Thursday at the Bridge tonight as we welcome Ukrainian opposition. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look for a solid start in the Round of 16…
London’s football powerhouse connects with a Dynamo tonight. Let the sparks fly but, please, no shocks. Chelsea are now one of just 16 clubs hoping to hear the Europa League anthem composed by Eintracht Frankfurt fan Michael Kadelbach seven more times.
Along with the glory of a trophy win at the Olympic Stadium, Baku, a Champions League place is up for grabs by the winner. And thanks to a revival in the Premier League, that is not the Blues’ only option
This evening’s kick-off is an 8pm one; the return next week in Ukraine is at 5.55pm UK time. The away leg squeezes into a congested domestic schedule, so the 2013 winners will aim to take a decent lead with us on the 2,600 mile round trip.
The Londoners defend a great home record in continental fixtures this evening. Across all European competitions, including the Fairs Cup, the Blues have lost just eight of the 118 matches staged on our home ground, winning a whopping 82 of them (69.5 per cent), including last time out against Malmo, highlights of which are below...
More saliently, the Blues have never lost a game at the Bridge in either the previous or current format of this tournament, winning 10 of the 12 matches and drawing the other two.
In contrast, tonight’s returning guests Dynamo Kiev have not won a Europa League knockout match on the road since beating Besiktas in February 2011, a 10-game winless run. (See our History part later for more on the Blue-White’s 2015 Champions League visit to the Bridge.)
Chelsea have won the past seven Europa League matches at Stamford Bridge by an aggregate score of 20-4.
— Key stat
The eight ties played tonight and next Thursday will determine the quarter-finalists, with Bayer Leverkusen, Bruges, Celtic, Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Lazio and Real Betis among those already on the scrapheap after the Round of 32.
Shakhtar Donetsk, league leaders above Dynamo in Ukraine and ranked 13th by UEFA, were the biggest casualties of that stage, falling to second-lowest-rated side Frankfurt. Plenty of big hitters and league leaders remain in contention, however.
As of 22 February 2019
It is worth recapping how tonight’s teams arrived at this moment. Maurizio Sarri’s side finished top of Group L, then beat Malmo in both legs.
The Kievans, whose European campaign started in early August with two rounds of Champions League qualifiers, topped a Europa League group including Arsenal’s Round of 16 opponents, Rennes, and scored two away goals in the Round of 32 before finishing off Olympiacos at home.
In early February Dynamo played a friendly match against Malmo during a warm weather training camp in Marbella and drew 0-0 with one shot on target apiece.
Still, it is worth pointing out that the team they bowed out to in the Champions League qualifiers was Ajax, who put Real Madrid to the sword on Tuesday.
Dynamo are expecting their biggest crowd of the season next week when Chelsea are in town. Their previous best was 48,902 against Olympiacos. All available home tickets sold out in three days.
Eden Hazard joined exalted company in the west London derby victory at Craven Cottage, becoming only the third Chelsea player to register 50 assists and 50 goals (81 in total) in the Premier League. The previous two to do so were Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. His combined total over the league season is now 23 (12 goals, 11 assists), third best behind Sergio Aguero (18, 6) and Mohamed Salah (17, 7) on 24.
The Blues also rank highly in Europa League statistics to date with the highest possession (66.7 per cent), shots per game (19.9), most corners (73) and passing accuracy (90.7 per cent). We are second for shots on target (48). Among clubs still in the competition, Willian has set up the most goals for team-mates (five).
Europa League top scorers
Munas Dabbur (Salzburg) 7
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) 6
Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla) 6
Luka Jovic (Frankfurt) 6
Wolves’ ever-present centre-half Ryan Bennett (pictured below) will miss their visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday through suspension after receiving his 10th caution of the campaign on Saturday against Cardiff.
Tickets are now on sale for the much-anticipated Champions League quarter-final first leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday 21 March, a 7.05pm kick-off at Kingsmeadow.
Chelsea have a crucial game away to Under-18 Premier League leaders Arsenal tomorrow lunchtime. Andy Myers’ team are six points behind the Gunners with a game in hand.
What of this evening’s guests? Dynamo are Ukraine’s most successful football club with 15 domestic titles to their name, most recently in 2016, along with three UEFA trophies.
Their legendary coach was Valeriy Lobanovsky, whose reign embraced two spells over three decades and brought them to the Cup Winners’ Cup final twice, in 1975 and 1985.
His coaching manual ‘Methodological Basis of the Development of Training Models’ is credited with one of the earliest mentions of the current buzzword ‘pressing’ and described what was later called ‘total football’ and credited to the Netherlands. It was co-written with another bright spark, Anatoly Zelentsov, an academic and statistician, without whom we mere fans may never have encountered xG, or ‘expected goals’.
That Dynamo team was a collective that attacked and defended, won and lost together. Their modern heirs under Aleksandr Khatskevich are more pragmatic and defensive, while still aggressive in pressurising defenders. Their quick-passing style is mixed up with lots of crosses, long-range shots and rehearsed set-plays.
Of course, Kiev follow in the Fulham Road footsteps of another famous Dynamo. The famous ‘D’ on their shirts was first seen at the Bridge on 13 November 1945, when the Moscow variety stopped for a friendly match that was the biggest attraction in postwar London since VE Day.
Gates at Stamford Bridge were broken down, neighbouring buildings’ walls and drainpipes were scaled, and adjacent tube and train lines swamped by up to 200,000 wannabe spectators.
Chelsea sported red jerseys in deference to the Soviet guests so that they might wear the famous blue and white of all Dynamo teams across the former USSR. The Cyrillic ‘D’ still worn by tonight’s visiting Bilo-sini or White-Blue players was originally the logo of the Dynamo Sports Society, founded in the 1920s by Felix Dzerzhinsky and named after a Moscow electrics factory.
Dzerzhinsky was also involved in Cheka, an early incarnation of the KGB, and all Dynamo teams were associated with the secret service. Things are very different since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991: the president of the Kiev club since 2002, Ihor Surkis, is a businessman, Social Democrat and realist.
‘If you play the second leg at home it’s a kind of advantage,’ Surkis commented following the Round of 16 draw. ‘If the first leg isn’t a failure, a lot of fans will come to support us at home.’
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS EVENING…
Electric Blues light up the Bridge.
Tonight’s Round of 16 fixtures
Dinamo Zagreb v Benfica 5.55pm
Eintract Frankfurt v Inter 5.55pm
Rennes v Arsenal 5.55pm
Sevilla v Slavia Prague 5.55pm
Zenit v Villarreal 5.55pm
Chelsea v Dynamo Kiev 8pm
Napoli v Salzburg 8pm
Valencia v Krasnodar 8pm