Chelsea v Dynamo Kiev Thursday 07 March, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
Chelsea's season a rollercoaster ride
Life is never dull at Chelsea Football Club. Manager Maurizio Sarri seemed set to be the latest victim of the Blues' boom-and-bust culture after losing 6-0 to Manchester City in the league and overseeing a painfully limp performance in an FA Cup exit at home to Manchester United.
However, a much more resolute display in the Carabao Cup final (to be known henceforth as the "Kepa final" for the Basque goalkeeper's refusal to be substituted ahead of a penalty shootout defeat to Manchester City) showed that the majority of the players are still fighting for their coach.
A 3-0 win over Malmo in the Europa League was far from perfect, but it secured progress into the last 16, and London derby victories over Tottenham and Fulham have boosted the Blues' Champions League qualification hopes.
Chelsea have displayed their squad strength in this competition so far, and they have won all four of their home matches, conceding just one goal in the process. Olivier Giroud is likely to be selected in attack (he has scored six UEL goals this season, and is trading at 2.08 in the To Score market), while Callum Hudson-Odoi may get another start after sparkling against Malmo.
Dynamo a danger on the road
It can be hard to dig out results away from home in continental competition, but Dynamo Kiev have consistently impressed on their travels in this tournament. In the group stage they won at Rennes and Astana, and in the last 32 they twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Olympiakos, a result that paved the way for their forward progress.
It's not just this season that the Ukrainian giants have shown a steely streak outside their country. They have only lost one of their last ten UEL away games, a run that started in August 2017. In the Ukrainian top flight, Dynamo have won their last four matches, although they are still seven points adrift of leaders and old foes Shakhtar Donetsk.
Dynamo have a couple of outstanding youngsters for Chelsea to keep an eye on. Teenage left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko is a strong defender and a danger going forward, while 21-year-old attacking midfielder Viktor Tsygankov has two goals and four assists, and has attracted admiring glances from clubs across Europe. The loss of Benjamin Verbic to suspension is a blow, as the Slovenian has scored three goals in this competition. Spanish striker Fran Sol also misses out with a shoulder injury.
Chelsea may well win, but by how much?
Chelsea have a 100% home record in the UEL, but Dynamo should provide their stiffest test so far, and the Blues are simply too short at 1.32. Whilst I can see Sarri's men edging their way to a first-leg advantage, I think they'll have to work incredibly hard against a resolute and talented Dynamo side.
I'll use the Asian Handicap to give Dynamo a one-and-a-half goal headstart at 1.86.
Dynamo to strike a blow?
Chelsea's defensive record is probably the driving force behind the price of 2.28 for Both Teams To Score. However, Dynamo have scored in their last nine away games in this competition, and they have netted twice in four of their last five road matches in the UEL.
Chelsea have given up more chances at home in the UEL than their record suggests, and I think BTTS is an avenue worth exploring.
Back Dynamo Kiev +1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.86