Later today Manchester City will take on Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 of the Champions League. The Blues, under Manuel Pellegrini, have lost their last three games, the last of which was a much changed side bowing out of the FA Cup to a full strength Chelsea side. Criticism has come from many about Pellegrini disrespecting the domestic cup competition but two things have been missed. Firstly, Manchester United didn't participate in the competition at all years back when the FA decided the country's tournament bid would be boosted if United took part in a Club World Cup and only last year, Chelsea, in pursuit of title and Capital One Cup success, made nine changes in an FA Cup game sandwiched in between the two League Cup ties. For Pellegrini the payoff for Sunday's decision will, hopefully, come with progression in the Champions League to the Quarter Finals for the first time in City history.
Standing in their way is Dynamo Kiev, a side City have faced in their recent history. Back in 2011, in the Europa League, City faced, and were defeated by, Kiev. The first leg, as with this time around, was in Kiev, and saw the hosts take a commanding lead into the second leg. Goals from ex Chelsea flop Andriy Shevchenko after twenty five minutes gave the hosts the lead while Oleh Gusev doubled the advantage thirteen minutes from time.
David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov and Tevez, when he came on, had chances for City but, with temperatures on the night dipping below 25F, it was always going to be a difficult task. The hosts were, and unsurprisingly so, much better at playing on the frozen pitch than our boys. That game took place on Thursday March 10th 2011, two days before an FA Cup game at home to Reading. That game City would win to set up that famous Semi Final against United before the Final, and first trophy win since 1976.
On the 17th March City had to play the European return leg and, as with most home games, dominated the first half of play. It was Kolarov who opened the scoring to give City a little bit of hope towards the end of the first half. However, moments earlier, Mario Balotelli had seen red, putting Mancini's side down to ten men and searching for that elusive goal. City would win the game 1-0 but lose the tie 2-1 as the European adventure came to an end.
Two months later and City were hoisting the FA Cup for the first time since 1969, and their first trophy since the League Cup in 1976. Since then City have won the Premier League twice and added another League Cup trophy to the cabinet, with another possible between these current two legs. City have gained a ton of European experience since Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Alex Kolarov, David Silva and Yaya Toure walked off that pitch five years ago.
Recent results can be misleading and Dynamo Kiev, under the guidance of manager, and ex Tottenham striker Serhiy Rebrov, are well aware of the dangers City can pose. Added to their concern is the fact City have no players who will miss the return leg if booked, Kiev have four walking that tightrope, a defender and three midfield players. Also in the visitors favor is the fact that the hosts haven't played since the last group game of this competition and so getting at them early, forcing those facing bans to make rash challenges, will certainly be the way to go and give a good base for the return leg on March 15th.