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By Igor Linnyk in Kiev
FC Dynamo Kyiv could be boosted by the return of influential playmaker Valentin Belkevich for Tuesday's visit of Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
The Ukrainian champions made a flying start to their Group B campaign by taking a 1-0 lead at AS Roma on Matchday 1 before the fixture was abandoned and subsequently ruled as a 3-0 Dynamo victory. Leverkusen achieved the same scoreline in the traditional way against Real Madrid CF, but there was nothing ordinary about that win. After such an impressive opening, both sides know there is a chance of claiming an early stranglehold on the section if they can take maximum points at the Valeriy Lobanovskiy stadium.
Squad comes first
The presence of Belarussian international Belkevich could be key with the 31-year-old returning from an ankle injury sustained in early August. Yet coach Jozsef Szabo is keen to stress that Dynamo are no one-man team. "Valentin is training with the group and is preparing for the match," he said. "Perhaps he will be on the bench, perhaps he will go even further than that. But please understand that you have to earn a place in this side."
The coach also has Brazilian defender Rodolfo back from suspension but will once again be without the injured Serhiy Fedorov. While Rodolfo and Belkevich are in his thinking, Szabo is more concerned with ensuring that the chosen starters show their ability to adapt against tricky opponents.
Flexibility is key
He said: "Each team must have different tactical schemes. Journalists like to draw formations on their computers but on the pitch it's a different story. We need flexibility and it shouldn't surprise anyone if [midfielder Tiberiu] Ghioane moves to centre-forward or if nine players attack at the same time and only one defender stays back."
Dynamo should be fresh having rested regulars Olexandr Shovkovskiy, Badr El Kaddouri, Jerko Leko, Ayila Yussuf and Diogo Rincón for Friday's 1-0 victory against FC Metalurh Donetsk. They will also be aware that when the clubs met in the 1999/00 first group stage, Dynamo won 4-2 at home and drew 1-1 away.
Szabo has plenty of respect for the opposition, however, saying: "Bayer have a lot of good players and I will not single any one out. If I say something about [Diego] Placente or [Dimitar] Berbatov, the rest will be offended. We know the Germans have certain problems in defence, but it's not making our life any easier. The important thing is to motivate our lads to play aggressive football."
Dynamo will not have to negotiate Brazilian defender Roque Júnior, who has a groin strain, or Radoslaw Kaluzny, that pair joining long-term casualties Hanno Balitsch, Daniel Bierofka and Clemens Fritz on the Leverkusen injury list. However, striker França has overcome an ankle problem and figured in Saturday's 3-0 Bundesliga defeat at VfB Stuttgart.
That result summed up Leverkusen's inconsistent domestic start with coach Klaus Augenthaler hoping his team reproduce the form shown against Madrid. He said: "
Our first matches of the season have been characterised by inconsistency. I spoke to the players about our situation, and we have decided to concentrate on the Dynamo game, especially given our good start against one of tournament favourites."
He added: "I watched the match in Rome and Dynamo outplayed the hosts. Roma could have conceded two or three times in the first half." Augenthaler should recall Jens Nowotny in defence after his knee troubles and may also turn to Ukrainian international forward Andriy Voronin on his return to his homeland.
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