Stoke face an almighty task in their first ever Europa League group stage encounter as they travel to Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kiev.
The Ukranians have played over 280 games in European competitions and will be most remembered for the explosive strike partnership of Sergei Rebrov and Andrey Shevchenko who terrorised defences throughout Europe in the 90’s.
Shevchenko left for pastures elsewhere, and after bagging a shedload of goals for AC Milan in Serie A he moved on to Chelsea – before moving back to Dynamo Kiev, and the Potters will be expecting to face the legendary(but tiring) forward this evening.
Dynamo Kiev have won thirteen league titles, nine Ukrainian Cups, one UEFA Super Cup and two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups.
Kiev also knocked out Manchester City from last year’s competition so they will provide a stern test for a Stoke team heading into uncharted waters tonight.
The Potters will need to defend well and there’s every chance Pulis will make his selection based on that.
There’s been a bit of a furore over a comment made by Tony Pulis in the press, he’s basically been quoted as saying Ukraine isn’t in Europe. Well, the quote was, unsurprisingly, taken out of context. Here’s what he really said :
‘Someone asked me if I’m excited about being in Europe – I don’t think we are in Europe if you look at the teams we are playing.
‘We are in Ukraine, Israel and Turkey. We got the short straw and the travelling distances are horrendous but we are looking forward to it’.
Just a light-hearted joke based on the miles Stoke have to travel, right?
Anyway, here’s what Pulis thinks about his side’s opponents tonight :
”I know Kiev have played many games in Europe and have more experience than most teams we are going to play – they are a very famous club.
‘We watched video of the Man City games from last year, so we know it will be tough.’
Dynamo Kiev Team News:
I don’t have a clue about who is struggling with injuries, but they’ve got a few decent players…
Player to watch: Quite a few of them, really…
Obviously, Andriy Shevchenko was a fantastic footballer and all eyes will be on him, but they have some very good players.
Nigerian wonderkid Lukman Haruna is a Palacios-esque midfielder in the middle of the park whose pedigree has seen a variety of top european clubs flock for his signature in recent years.
Described as the ‘best free kick taker in Europe’ by his coach, Stokies will have to be aware of Oleksandr Aliyev.
The 26-year-old has a lot of ability and will certainly keep the Stoke defence busy tonight if handed a start.
Ideye Brown is an explosive Nigerian forward who has netted an impressive 5 goals in 6 games so far this season.
Andriy Yarmolenko is another player who will be a dangerman, the 21-year-old has scored 4 goals in 8 appearances and his pace and physicality could cause problems for Stoke.
Artem Milevskiy will also be vowing for a place up front tonight, the Dynamo forward has made over 150 appearences and boasts a very good goal-scoring record. At 6 ft 3in, he’s going to be an uncompromising proposition for the Stoke defence if selected.
They aren’t short of good players, put it that way.
Stoke City Team News:
Peter Crouch hasn’t travelled with the squad tonight after picking up a knock against liverpool.
Matthew Etherington will be rested because of a niggling back problem whislt Rory Delap (groin) and Marc Wilson (hamstring) will also miss out.
Expected line up :
Huth Upson Shawcross Wilkinson
Pennant Palacios Whelan Walters
I don’t know if we’ll go two up top or not, but with Etherington out injured I’d expect Walters to fill in on the left with Jerome and Palacios being handed their first starts in a Stoke shirt.
Player to watch: Cameron Jerome
I think he’ll become a very good player for Stoke and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit the ground running tonight – definitely one to watch this season, not just for tonight’s game.
Match Facts & Stats
Dynamo Kiev are clearly a very good side , and they’ll be a massive step up from FC Thun and Hajduk Split, but the Potters are on a roll and I think we’ll grab a 1-1 draw thanks to stout defending and a break away goal…
GOOOAAARRRN STOKE. And all the best to all the Stokies who have made the trip to Kiev, have a fantastic day.
Stoke will travel to Sunderland on Sunday in the hope of continuing their unbeaten run to the new season.