Astana are in the group stage for the third season in a row, but must overcome Dynamo Kyiv's considerable experience.
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Astana's third successive UEFA Europa League group stage adventure kicks off with a tough fixture away to Dynamo Kyiv, a club with vast experience in this competition who have graced the knockout phase with their presence on five occasions.
• Astana have never faced Ukrainian opposition before.
• Dynamo's only previous tie against a team from Kazakhstan yielded 11 goals as they romped to an 8-3 aggregate success against Aktobe in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League play-offs. There were five different Dynamo scorers in the 5-1 home win.
• Ukrainian league runners-up to Shakhtar Donetsk last term, Dynamo entered the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, where they defeated Slavia Praha 3-1 before going out in the play-offs to Ajax (1-3 away, 0-0 home).
• This is Dynamo's seventh involvement in the UEFA Europa League and sixth group stage campaign, four of the previous five having been successful, the exception coming in 2011/12. Their best performance was in 2014/15, when they reached the quarter-finals, having also been semi-finalists in the last ever UEFA Cup of 2008/09.
• Dynamo are unbeaten in their last eight home games in the UEFA Europa League group stage, winning seven. They have suffered just one defeat in their last ten European matches in Kyiv (W6 D3) – 0-2 against Lazio in last season's UEFA Europa League round of 16, which led to their elimination – but have failed to score in three of the last four.
• Astana are on a run of four successive domestic league titles and have come through four qualifying ties – the first three in the UEFA Champions League – to complete a hat-trick of UEFA Europa League group stage participations. After defeating Sutjeska and Midtjylland but then losing to Dinamo Zagreb, they won their UEFA Europa League play-off on penalties – their first European shoot-out – against Cypriot champions APOEL after two 1-0 home wins.
• Having become the first team from Kazakhstan to play in the UEFA Champions League proper in 2015/16, Astana have spent the last two autumns in the UEFA Europa League. Their tally of five points in 2016/17 was not enough to see them through but last season they doubled that total to reach the round of 32, where they lost 6-4 over two legs to Sporting CP.
• In each of their three European group campaigns Astana have lost away on matchday one. Until last season they had gone 18 European matches on the road without a win, but in 2017/18 they picked up three. Their last three away fixtures this term, however, have yielded two defeats and a draw – with no goals scored in any of them.
Links and trivia
• Astana's head coach Roman Hryhorchuk coached Metalurh Zaporizhya and Chornomorets Odesa in his native Ukraine from 2009–2014. In nine games against Dynamo Kyiv, he lost seven, drew one and won one.
• Astana defender Sergei Maliy is also from Ukraine, while team-mate Ivan Maevski played 11 matches for Belarus under Dynamo's head coach Aleksandr Khatskevich.
• Dynamo's Tamás Kádár and Astana's László Kleinheisler are both current Hungarian internationals, and Dynamo's Josip Pivarić and Astana's Marin Tomasov played together for Croatia in 2013.
• Dynamo's assistant coach Maksim Shatskikh played for Astana in 2009.
• Hired as Dynamo coach in July 2017, Aleksandr Khatskevich won seven successive league titles with the club as a player between 1997 and 2004, having also claimed five straight championships with Dinamo Minsk in his native Belarus. He later worked with Dynamo's youth and reserve teams before taking charge of the Belarus national side from 2014 to 2016. He was capped 38 times by his country, scoring four international goals, three of them in qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
• A free-scoring Ukrainian striker, Roman Hryhorchuk has made his name as a coach in eastern Europe, starting out in Latvia, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups during a four-year spell with Ventspils. He went on to coach Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland and Azerbaijan side Gabala for similar periods, overseeing UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns for both, before replacing Stanimir Stoilov at Kazakh champions Astana in June 2018.