PSG – Dynamo: First Leg PreviewBy: Yevy | April 9th, 2009
Champions League matches may have been played on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the European competition that has the attention of fans in Ukraine and France takes center stage today. Shakhtar Donetsk will host Olympique Marseille, while UPL leaders Dynamo take on Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup. The winners will meet each other in the next round, and both nations would like to send two representatives through to the penultimate stage and guarantee a spot in the finals for one of its clubs. Yuri Semin’s side will hope to take a step towards holding up their end of the bargain with a positive result in Paris.
PSG had recently gone through some lean years, including having to survive a relegation battle in 2006/2007. Despite the appointment of manager Paul Le Guen late that season, the two-time French champions found themselves even closer to the abyss next year, needing to win its final two matches to avoid the drop. However the former skipper righted the Paris ship this year, and his side are just four points from the top of the table in the first contested Ligue 1 race since the turn of the century. A Coupe de la Ligue title in 2008 earned PSG a spot in the UEFA Cup, and the Paris club has enjoyed showing off its improved form all over Europe.
The success of this year’s team can be largely attributed to several key additions brought in by Le Guen, which have helped solidify the existing core of veteran players. Top scorer Guillaume Hoarau has impressed since his summer move from Le Havre AC, whom he helped earn top flight status the previous season. The towering 24 year old will present an aerial challenge for the Dynamo defense. Midfielders Ludovic Giuly and Claude Makélélé brought with them the experience of winning the Champions League trophy for Europe’s top clubs when Le Guen acquired their services before the season. Another veteran of European finals joins them in midfield in the form of Jérôme Rothen, Giuly’s former AS Monaco teammate. Captain Makalelele has found an able partner in the center of the pitch in Beninese midfielder Stéphane Sessegnon, another newcomer from Le Mans. Jerome Clement rounds out the PSG midfield, having followed Le Guen from his previous stop at Glasgow Rangers.
PSG has had its share of defensive troubles this season, and Le Guen has fielded a rotating cast of characters in front of Mickaël Landreau. His task of keeping Dynamo off the scoreboard will be made that much tougher because of the injury to left back Sylvain Armand. Dynamo will also be missing an important defensive piece after losing standout center back Taras Mykhalyk to a damaged meniscus in its 2-0 victory at Metalurh Donetsk. He will likely be replaced by Ayila Yussuf, who made his first start since a September injury in the same match.
Without the services of the injured Artem Kravets and with Ismael Bangoura still looking to find his form after an unimpressive 45 minutes against Metalurh D, Semin is likely to play with one striker in the away leg of this quarterfinal. Here’s the eleven I anticipate will start the match:
Dynamo will be boosted by Ognjen Vukojevic’s return from suspension. The Croatian midfielder nodded in the second goal against Metalurh D. Oleksandr Aliyev, who opened the scoring from the spot, is a booking away from having to sit out a match himself. Artem Milevskiy appears to be no worse for wear after taking a stud to the cheek last weekend. Guilherme and Andriy Yarmolenko have both made the trip to Paris, but if another attacker has to be brought on it would likely be Bangoura, who has plenty of experience with French opposition. Oleh Husyev and Serhiy Kravchenko will probably be the other likely options off the bench.