Dundee United v Dynamo Moscow: United powering up against Dynamo
THE spies have reported back, the dossier has been compiled and the DVDs are being waded through but even without such intelligence, Dundee United had a decent inkling of what they were up against the moment the Europa League third qualifying round ties were drawn.
Unlike last year when Slask Wroclaw were something of an unknown quantity, few in Scotland will be unaware of the pedigree of Dynamo Moscow. It means that expectations levels will be more realistic. It also means that the task of getting past them into the next round will be all the mightier.
“When you look at it, they paid ¤19 million [£14.9m] for a winger [Balazs Dzsudzsák] and they have internationals throughout the squad and we will be up against guys like Andrei Voronin [pictured left] who was at Liverpool, and Kevin Kuryani, so we can safely say that their budget is much bigger than ours,” says Dundee United manager Peter Houston.
The oldest Russian football club, they are also the only team to have always played in the top tier of the Soviet and Russian football competitions, never being relegated. But they have not won the top division since 1976.
“We also know what to expect from Russian sides. I was across at the Euros and we could see that the Russian players are better technically than us, so we are the underdogs, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything going for us. I’m not being negative when I say we will the rub of the green, we just know the size of the job we have. We know we will need to be at our best and focus and not give away any silly goals, but we will have a go. We still believe we have a chance,” he says.
The first leg is at Tannadice on Thursday, giving the Scottish side home advantage as they hope to carve out a result which will leave them with something to fight for in Russia as the tie reaches it conclusion. Four victories in six pre-season games suggest they are in decent form but the worry for Houston is the lack of competitive action for his men ahead of the tussle.
While the SPL campaign won’t kick-off until next weekend, the Russian club, who finished fourth in their domestic league last season, are already well ensconced in their current campaign. The one benefit is that it permitted Paul Hegarty the opportunity to fly to Russia to get a look at them as United try to find the right tactics to upset the odds.
That info, plus the inside intel offered by former Celtic winger and current Spartak Moscow midfielder Aiden McGeady, will supplement the hours of DVD footage viewed by the United manager. But when all the facts are distilled what will matter most is the performance of his own team.
“We have guys like Jon Daly who can cause any defence problems and with the likes of Gary Mackay-Steven, Johnny Russell and Michael Gardyne, we are obviously going to try to have a go. Ideally we will keep it tight and deny them a goal, while hopefully getting a goal or two of our own to defend when we go across there.”
The support will be instrumental, though. Houston is hoping for a packed stadium, and says that the fact that the Russians’ pedigree is well known should help, with the hope that fans will be more patient.
“Last year I think some people – not us, but some of the supporters – underestimated the Polish side but as it turned out Slask won the Polish league so they were no mugs and I still maintain we were unlucky not to beat them.”
They ultimately lost out on goal difference on a thrilling Tayside night of goals and drama but this year Houston hopes they are the beneficiaries of Lady Luck’s goodness.
“Two years ago, I thought we were a wee bit unfortunate against AEK Athens, who were another big club and losing on away goals last season was hard but that was a magnificent night at Tannadice. We packed out the ground and I would hope that it will be the same on Thursday, when Moscow come to our place.
“We work hard every season to get into Europe and no-one wants it to end after just one round, so we will do our best. I know everyone at the club is looking forward to it and after the hard work of pre-season, the players can’t wait.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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