FC Dynamo Kyiv coach Yuri Semin has urged his team to "focus on their own game" as the Ukrainian Premier League runners-up seek to dispel memories of last season's nightmare campaign with a Group G victory against Arsenal FC.
Dynamo failed to collect a point in the group stage last term as two coaching changes perhaps unsurprisingly unsettled the squad. Current incumbent Semin has since steadied the ship and guided Dynamo to second place in the table after seven matches, two points behind FC Metalurh Donetsk. They also won 5-0 in the Ukrainian Cup at the weekend yet have a sterner test against an Arsenal side who have scored seven times without reply in winning their last two English league outings. Semin, though, is undaunted: "Europe's top club competition is back. We have been looking forward to it and dreaming about it. Judging by our recent performances I can say we are ready."
Semin skipped the cup victory to watch their English opponents defeat Blackburn Rovers FC 4-0 away, with an Emmanuel Adebayor hat-trick. It was a display highlighting the size of the task facing Dynamo. "Arsenal impressed me very much," said Semin, who must cope without the suspended Badr El Kaddouri. "They are a young team who play a passing game which has proved successful. They enjoy the football they play. We have to treat all their team with respect because they are high-profile players, so we will not have someone chasing Adebayor for 90 minutes.
Strengths and weaknesses
"If I definitely knew how to beat Arsenal then I would be a magician," continued the 61-year-old former Russia coach. "But I know that if we focus on our own game and play to our potential, we stand a good chance. The game will show what are our strengths and our weaknesses. We have many strong points and now it is important to put them into practice." Arsène Wenger would testify to the quality that Dynamo possess, having admitted he was impressed by their 8-2 aggregate victory over FC Spartak Moskva in the third qualifying round. In particular, the Arsenal manager has noted the threat of Semin's forwards.
"We respect Dynamo Kyiv," Wenger said. "I feel their main strengths are that they are very efficient, they work very hard and they are very disciplined. Up front, with [Artem] Milevskiy and [Ismaël] Bangoura, they can also score goals. But we are not afraid, we are afraid of nobody." Why should they be? Arsenal have recovered from a loss at Fulham FC in their second game of the campaign to claim successive three-point hauls. The Gunners, Wenger says, are raring to go. "Now it is better to be starting [the group stage] than two weeks ago, because many players came back too weary from the [UEFA] European Championship. Now everybody is ready physically to play at the top level."
Even so, the north London club have succumbed to Dynamo twice in the competition, in 1998 and 2003, and Wenger is hoping history does not repeat itself at the Valeri Lobanovskiy Stadium. "Kiev is always a very difficult place for us," he admitted. "If you do not prepare well mentally you will get surprised by the level of commitment when you play in Ukraine."
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