FC Dynamo Kyiv are preparing to play host to FC Rubin Kazan in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg desperate for a return to Europe's elite after missing out on the group stage last season.
Twelve months ago the Ukrainian side disposed of KAA Gent at this point in the competition before succumbing to AFC Ajax in the play-offs. If they want to go one better, however, they will have to do it the hard way having been given what many of a Dynamo persuasion believe to be the toughest possible first assignment: a tie with the two-time Russian champions.
"If we want to reach the group stage, we have to defeat Rubin − there's no other way," said Dynamo president Igor Surkis. "There's no doubt this tie will be extremely hard. Rubin are a good side, one of the best in Russia, and they have a great coach [Kurban Berdyev]. Yet we have trump cards as well. These matches are very important but it's not going to be any easier after them."
The tie's appeal stems from a pair of group-stage meetings two years ago, when Dynamo won 3-1 at home thanks to goals from Ayila Yussuf, Gérson Magrão and Oleh Gusev and drew 0-0 in Tatarstan, A repeat of those results would do nicely. "Rubin have changed quite a lot since the time we met them in 2009," said Dynamo coach Yuri Semin. "They play more passes now and try to take control of possession. However, defending is still their strongest point. Rubin are super reliable in this aspect."
Dynamo, whose only absentee is long-term injury victim Taras Mikhalik, warmed up on Friday with a 4-0 defeat of neighbours FC Obolon Kyiv, a game in which summer signing Ideye Brown scored twice for the second successive game.
On the same night, Rubin recorded their fourth win in five league matches − a 1-0 victory at FC Terek Grozny − and approach the tie in high spirits. "After the victory in Grozny the mood in the squad is really good," said midfielder Petr Nemov. "Any win brings about positivity, but all the emotions are left in Grozny; all of us are concentrated on the match in Kyiv now."
In contrast to Dynamo, Rubin go into the tie without four senior players: defender Aleksandr Orekhov, midfielders Carlos Eduardo and Aleksandr Ryazantsev and reserve goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis.
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