Dynamo Kiev caused one of the biggest upsets of the group stage by following Chelsea in qualifying from Group G, while Porto crashed out in third place despite collecting 10 points.
Sergei Rebrov’s side have proven to be one of the most resilient teams in Europe and their last minute equaliser against Porto on Matchday 1 proved to be a crucial moment.
Kiev faced an uphill battle to get out of their group but won their final two fixtures without conceding a single goal to sneak into the knock-out phase of the tournament.
No team wanted a long trip to Kiev in the knock-out round and while Manchester City will go into the tie as strong favourites, Rebrov’s men will be confident of earning a good result in the first leg, which is to take place in Ukraine.
Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko is one of the most dynamic attackers in Europe and City will have to find a way to stop the winger if they are to progress into the next round of the competition.
However, the Ukrainian Premier League is currently in the middle of its long winter break, so Kiev may struggle to find the intensity they have become known for under Rebrov. Kiev are well placed to retain their domestic title, having ended the first portion of the season level on points at the top.
Rank outsiders they may be, but Rebrov’s Kiev have tools in their armoury that could hurt City. Manuel Pellegrini’s side often struggle against teams with lots of pace in their attack and the sheer speed of Yarmolenko, who likes to cut inside off his wing and shoot at goal, could be key.
Rebrov was intended to be a stopgap appointment following the dismissal of Oleg Blokhin, but after leading Kiev to Ukrainian Cup glory he earned the chance to manage the team permanently.
Fitness is at the heart of Kiev’s play under Rebrov and he has been known to drop or substitute key players – even star man Yarmolenko – if he feels they have not been working hard enough. Rebrov demands his players press the opposition ferociously and, when they are at their best, Kiev can be reminiscent of Jurgen Klopp’s brilliant Dortmund side and their gegenpressing style.
Kiev often line up in a defensively solid 4-1-4-1 formation with Portuguese playmaker Miguel Veloso the furthest forward of the central midfield trio.
Key fantasy players
Since the departure of fellow winger Yevhen Konoplyanka to Sevilla, Andriy Yarmolenko has shouldered much of the attacking burden for Kiev. Despite regularly being linked with a big money move to either a European giant or a Premier League club, Yarmolenko signed a new long-term contract to commit his immediate future to Kiev in October. He scored twice in the group stage.
“I still want to try myself in a top league and to play for one of the best teams in Europe, but I want the club to get a decent fee in return,” Yarmolenko said. “I could move on a free transfer, but considered it to be wrong.” While his eventual future may lie away from Ukraine, Yarmolenko is fully committed to helping Kiev go deep in this year’s Champions League and is valued at $5,300 on DraftKings for the home tie with Manchester City.
While most daily fantasy football players who want to pick a Kiev player will be drawn towards Yarmolenko, those in search of a bargain might be advised to instead turn to Derlis González.
The Paraguayan had a huge impact in the group stage, scoring one goal and creating two more for his side, particularly shining in Kiev’s vital 2-0 win away to FC Porto. While opposition defenders are focused on keeping Yarmolenko quiet, González, 21, can cause havoc for his team.
Kiev’s success under Rebrov in the last two seasons has been built on a solid defence and in Yevhen Khacheridi they have one of the strongest defenders in the whole of Europe.
The 28-year-old played every single minute of the group stage and recorded a superb WhoScored rating of 7,47 over the six fixtures. Khacheridi made on average at least three interceptions a game and he reads the game beautifully, while his composure on the ball helps Kiev to play out from the back. If Kiev are to keep a City attack boasting names like Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling at bay, Khacheridi will have to be at his very best.