Chelsea looks to boost poor season with win in Kiev
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Outside of the top 10 in the Premier League and outside of the qualifying spots in Champions League Group G. That’s not how Chelsea’s October was supposed to look.
Following a 2-1 loss to Porto last time out, Tuesday’s visit to Ukraine could offer a much needed boost, especially since group leader Dynamo Kiev is coming off a heavy loss to its fiercest domestic rival.
Still, the Ukrainians will be no pushover. Dynamo boasts passionate home fans as well as star winger Andriy Yarmolenko, who last week signed a new five-year contract.
In the other game Tuesday, Porto hosts Israeli opposition for the first time and will be widely expected to beat a Maccabi Tel Aviv side that has lost both its games so far and has yet to score a goal.
MAKE OR BREAK FOR CHELSEA?
The match against Dynamo in Ukraine on Tuesday could have a big influence on Chelsea’s European aspirations this season.
The defeat to Porto leaves Chelsea third in Group G with three points and visiting a stadium with a reputation as something of a fortress. Dynamo has not lost any of its last seven European home games dating back to the 2013-14 season.
Coach Jose Mourinho thinks Saturday’s 2-0 English Premier League win over Aston Villa could mark the team turning a corner. After the game he admitted that “some of our players have lost confidence” but that results like the win over Villa could bring it back.
Among the goalscorers was striker Diego Costa, who also scored in Chelsea’s Champions League-opening 4-0 win over Maccabi but had his recent game time curtailed by a Premier League suspension.
As well as the long-term injury to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, defender Branislav Ivanovic is doubtful after missing the Villa fixture.
Chelsea should expect a tough reception in Kiev, where the crowd is large and loud, though its passion can take less pleasant forms. Last season, the club was punished by UEFA for fan racism in its Europa League win over Everton.
MOURINHO BACK IN KIEV
For Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, Tuesday’s game against Dynamo will be his second trip to Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy stadium this month.
He attended Ukraine’s European championship qualifier against Spain last week, sparking speculation in local media that he was interested in buying Yarmolenko, something Dynamo swiftly denied.
Whether he was following Yarmolenko, or simply keeping track of Chelsea’s Spanish internationals Cesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta, Mourinho will also have seen plenty of Dynamo’s team. As well as Yarmolenko, midfielders Denys Harmash and Serhiy Rybalka featured for Ukraine, while veteran midfielder Oleh Husev was on the bench.
TURBULENT WEEK FOR DYNAMO
Ahead of Chelsea’s visit Tuesday, Dynamo Kiev and its star player Yarmolenko have had a turbulent week.
First the winger signed a new five-year contract with Dynamo, but immediately stated he expected to leave the club for a top European league. The new deal, he said, was merely a way to ensure Dynamo, the club he supports passionately, gets to cash in when he departs, rather than leaving when his old contract expired at the end of the season.
Then came Saturday and a disastrous 3-0 defeat to fierce rival Shakhtar Donetsk, which took top spot in the Ukrainian league from Dynamo.
After that game, Yarmolenko was again in the headlines in Ukraine for an alleged show of disrespect. After swapping shirts with an opponent, Yarmolenko left the Shakhtar shirt on the pitch. He denies it was meant as an insult.
Dynamo coach Sergei Rebrov says he wants to tighten up his team’s resistance to counterattacks after they led to all of Shakhtar’s goals Saturday.
Dynamo is without forward Lukasz Teodorczyk, who has a long-term leg injury, while midfielder Younes Belhanda’s time on the pitch has been limited by a stomach problem.
PORTO COACH SEEKS MILESTONE
Julen Lopetegui is eying a milestone against Maccabi — a win for Porto would be the Spanish coach’s 20th consecutive home victory and would take him past former coach Jose Mourinho’s mark.
Porto fans haven’t seen such a winning streak at the Stadium of the Dragon for more than 10 years.
Overtaking Mourinho — who led Porto to the 2003-04 Champions League title — would ease the pressure on Lopetegui, who didn’t capture any silverware last season during his first year in charge.
Porto is unbeaten in its last 11 European home matches. It also hasn’t conceded a goal at home in its last 14 home domestic league fixtures and is joint top of the Portuguese league, and unbeaten, after seven rounds.