Kick-Off: Wednesday, September 16, 20:45 CET
Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv
Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv
Brimming With Hope
No one really expects any team other than Barcelona and Inter to get past the group stage of the Champions League into the knockout rounds from Group F, but if there is any team that can at least attempt to do damage to this notion, then it is Dynamo Kyiv.
The Ukrainian champions have been placed in Group F along with the Spanish, Italian and Russian champions, and although a third place finish wouldn't be bad, the Bilo-Syni know that a victory over Rubin Kazan on Wednesday evening could just provide them with the launchpad to go and do greater things in Europe this season.
Kyiv's Champions League hopes rely on a certain Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian international striker was signed by his former club this summer, and although the former Milan and Chelsea star is not the same player he was four or so years ago, Kyiv will be hoping that he rediscovers at least part of the touch that made him one of the most feared strikers in world football in his first spell with them.
The former Champions League semi-finalists have not gone beyond the group stage of Europe's premier club competition since the season after Shevchenko's departure, but a home victory over the Russian side on Wednesday could just give them the boost they need.
Dynamo reached the semi-finals of the now defunct UEFA Cup last season and are unbeaten at home since losing 2-1 to Porto in the Champions League on November 5, 2008.
Trying To Make A Memorable Debut
Rubin Kazan are one of eight clubs making their Champions League group stage debuts this season, and understandably it is more about enjoying the occasion than going for the kill. For the Russian side, it will be especially intriguing as they travel to Ukraine, and matches between Russian and Ukrainian clubs tend to be a treat.
Rubin won the Russian Premier League title in 2008, just five years after they had gained promotion to the country's top flight. That year also marked their 50th anniversary, and it couldn't have been celebrated in a better way.
The Tatarstan club are the least favoured to go through to the knockout stage from this group but they will be banking on carrying their current great form in the Russian Premier League into Europe.
The opening match against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday will be crucial, as a win, however unlikely, or even a draw, would inject them with happy doses of confidence - and confidence is something that Kurban Berdyev's side need to progress further in the Champions League.
September 12 v Metalist (A) - WON 1-0 (Ukrainian Cup, Round of 16)
August 31 v Metalurh Donetsk (H) - WON 3-1 (Ukrainian Championship)
August 23 v Vorskla (A) - DREW 1-1 (Ukrainian Championship)
August 15 v Arsenal Kyiv (A) - WON 2-1 (Ukrainian Cup, Round of 32)
August 8 v Illichivets (H) - WON 3-1 (Ukrainian Championship)
September 12 v Saturn Moscow - WON 5-1 (Russian Premier League)
August 30 v Spartak (A) - WON 3-0 (Russian Premier League)
August 23 v Dinamo Moscow (A) - WON 3-0 (Russian Premier League)
August 16 v Terek (H) - WON 4-0 (Russian Premier League)
August 8 v FC Moscow (A) - WON 3-1 (Russian Premier League)
Summer recruits Andriy Shevchenko and Leandro Almeida are both expected to start against Rubin Kazan on Wednesday. Coach Valery Gazzaev is expected to play in a more attacking tone, with Artem Milevskiy supposed to start alongside 'Sheva' in a two-prong attack.
Possible Formation (4-4-2): Shovkovskiy, Betao, Almeida, Diakhate, Mandzyuk; Eremenko, Ghioane, Magrao, Ninkovic; Shevchenko, Milevskiy
Kurban Berdyev would have liked to start with the same players who thrashed Saturn 5-1 in the Russian Premier League at the weekend, but he will have to do without midfielder Macbeth Sibaya. The South African begins a three-match ban that was imposed because of his dismissal against Rapid Wien in the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, second leg.
Possible Formation (4-4-2): Ryzhikov, Ansaldi, Cesar, Kaleshin, Sharonov; Bystrov, Semak, Ryazantsev, Gokdeniz; Domínguez, Bukharov
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kyiv)
Shevchenko has returned to the club where it all began and has been in good form in the opening weeks. He scored in Dynamo's 3-1 victory over Metalurh in August in the league, when he slotted home a spot kick in injury time. The 32-year-old is visibly past his prime but it may not be too late for him to go for a last hurrah with the club whom he led to the semi-finals of Europe's most coveted club competition in the late 1990s.
Sergei Semak (Rubin Kazan)
The Russian midfielder captained his nation to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 and has been a tremendous player for Rubin Kazan so far. The 33-year-old will have to be at his best against Dynamo on Wednesday for the Tatars to take anything from this game.
As romantic as it would be if Rubin Kazan took something back home from this match, it is unlikely that Dynamo Kyiv will concede any points in their opening fixture of the Champions League campaign. The Ukrainians have a better team on paper and playing at home will be an added advantage.
Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 Rubin Kazan
Subhankar Mondal, Goal.com