Not the best of times to be visiting Ukraine from what I’ve seen on the telly, particularly Kiev. Dnipropetrovsk, where Tim Sherwood takes charge of the team for the first time in Europe is in the south-east of the country, 200 odd miles from the capital and according to the Lonely Planet website somewhere that ‘has the potential to be an atractive city’, but clearly isn’t.
Whether one should be playing something as trivial as a football match whilst people are dying for political causes just a short train ride away is very debatable and presumably Spurs, Dnipro and UEFA have all been in close discussion during the last few days, or you’d like to think so anyway. The staging of sporting events where security is an issue has been a newsworthy topic lately of course but the Winter Olympics are one thing and the first leg of a Europa League last 32 tie another.
As I write there are no rumours of the game being postponed thus I presume we’ll go ahead with Danny Rose and Michael Dawson wearing tin hats and Kevlar vests with Kyle Naughton being told to wind up dangerous winger Konoplyanka with some chat about democracy and freedom of speech. The last thing Naughton will need is a reminder of any Liverpool connection to his immediate opponent given the new one he was ripped by Sterling in AVB’s last final game but it was Konoplyanka who was just a signature away from signing for the Scousers on deadline day. Naughton will be playing as Walker is one of a number of players being given the night off by Sherwood. Lloris, Kaboul, Dembele, Defoe and Lennon have also been told to cool their heels or in Jermain’s case, start packing.
Also not going is Adebayor and given that he’s been the beginning and end of our attack these last two months, this gives us a pretty good idea where progress abroad stands in Tim’s priorities compared to keeping Liverpool honest at home. Soldado will lead the line with Townsend and probably Eriksen. Or Chadli. Kapowee, Bentaleb and Paulinho are available as far as I’m aware and should make up the midfield with Vertonghen, Rose and Dawson joining Naughton in front of Brad.
Dnipro are managed by Juande Ramos of course, the last man to be in charge of a trophy-winning Spurs team but also a man who appears to have nothing good to say about his time at the club. How are Dnipro doing? They’re fourth at the moment after 16 games, 6 points behind Shakhtar but with a game in hand but they’re in the middle of a rather long looking midwinter break at the moment. Their last domestic fixture was on December 4th, and their next on 2nd March so there’s a chance we could be catching them cold. Their squad list appears to consist mostly of Ukranians but as with just about every club these days there’s a couple of Brazilians thrown in for good measure. Nicola Kalinic is the only name I recognise apart from Konoplyanka, the Croation spent a few seasons at Blackburn of all places.
We’ve sent a strong though not our strongest squad. Possession will be key in keeping the crowd quiet and you’d expect Bentaleb to excel in this area. A good performance from Soldado is vital if we’re to nab an away goal or two, Kane will be waiting on the bench if the Spaniard goes missing and I’m sure Sherwood won’t hesitate to use him. I’m expecting a tough game but nothing so tough that we won’t be in a good position to go through next Thursday. The officials are from Spain. COYS.