Dynamo Kiev vs Roma
Dynamo Kiev will be looking to cement their position in top spot of Group B this evening as they take on the struggling Italians in the Ukrainian capital.
If they win or draw tonight at the Valery Lobanovskiy stadium and Bayer Leverkusen fail to win in Madrid then Kiev will require only a draw against the Germans in their final group match to qualify for the last 16.
Roma, meanwhile, are already eliminated and face a near impossible task to even qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Kiev are eager to return to winning ways after taking just one point from their double-header against Madrid. However, Roma will be out to erase the memory of September’s group stage opener. The match was abandoned at half time when the referee was hit on the head by a coin thrown by a Roma supporter. Roma trailed one-nil at the time and UEFA subsequently awarded a 3-0 victory to the Ukrainian side.
Kiev coach, Josef Szabo said: “Roma are very serious opponents with a fine coach [Luigi Del Neri] and he has a number of talented players.
“He has also had a difficult task as Roma were in disarray just a few months ago and even though the club’s results are still unsatisfactory, the team is beginning to produce quality football.”
So are Kiev. They won 4-0 against Volyn Lutsk in the Ukrainian Cup on Friday to seal a 6-1 aggregate success. Brazilian defender Rodolfo missed out with flu but should be back to face Roma along with Yuriy Dmytrulin who is fit again after a long-term knee injury.
Dynamo might be at full strength but it is a different story for Roma, who are without the suspended Daniele De Rossi and Christian Panucci. Forwards Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Montella have not travelled because of a family bereavement and flu respectively. Also absent, as Roma bid to keep their slim UEFA Cup hopes alive, are the injured Mancini, Philippe Mexes and Cristian Chivu.
Concentration will be key for Dynamo, with Szabo aware the Roma replacements will be eager to make an impression.
“We will take them seriously as it is dangerous to underestimate your opponents before a game,” he said. “We have to respect our opponents.”
The weather could also be a factor in the Ukrainian capital, with Szabo taking every step to prepare his team, including evening training.
He said: “I know the weather will be harsh, however the pitch should be in good condition as it has been heated. We must go out and get all three points regardless of anything else.”
Roma are struggling this season and as well as their poor Champions League form, they lie fifth from bottom of Serie A. After two straight league defeats their latest setback was a two-one home loss to Siena in the first leg of their Italian Cup second-round tie on Friday.
One positive was that forward Antonio Cassano, newly restored to the side after a dispute with the coach, was made captain for the first time.
Trying to remain positive, coach Del Neri said: “It’s a difficult situation but I think we just need a bit of luck to change our mentality and the whole environment around us.
“We are already out of the Champions League but a win would do wonders to our morale.”