Dynamo Kiev aim to revive glory days
At least in comparison to recent seasons, the last 16 in this year's Europa League seems to be loaded with clubs who have an illustrious history.
CSKA Moscow, Porto and PSV Eindhoven are names that immediately catch the eye - and Manchester City's next opponents, Dynamo Kiev, are no exception.
The pair meet for the very first time in a competitive match on Thursday, when they take to the field at the chilly
However, like City, it has been a long time since Dynamo achieved something of real significance in a continental competition.
Admittedly, they made the Champions League semi-finals back in 1999 and got to the Uefa Cup semi-finals two seasons ago. But losing that match to local rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, who went on to beat Werder Bremen in the final and become the first Ukraine team to win a European trophy since the break-up of the Soviet Union, compounded the feeling in the Ukraine capital that their past glories were exactly that.
Despite the fact that to make any sort of further progress will require beating some other big names, this season there is the feeling that Dynamo can turn back the clock to when they were one of the dominant teams of the old Soviet Union and feared across Europe.
Andriy Shevchenko is enjoying a late-career flourish. Photo: Getty Images
Unbeaten in six Europa League games, Dynamo have become increasingly impressive. One of the reasons for the general feeling of optimism is that Yuri Semin has returned for a second stint as the club's coach.
He was appointed at the end of December as the permanent replacement for Valeri Gazzayev, who threw in the towel in October after a poor start to the season left Dynamo floundering at the bottom of their Europa League group and lagging a long way behind league leaders Shakhtar.
Former Arsenal and Wolves defender Oleg Luzhny then took over as the caretaker coach and had an immediate impact, turning things around quickly, apart from an initial 2-0 loss at Shakhtar.
However, once Semin became available after being sacked by Lokomotiv Moscow at the end of November, it was almost inevitable Luzhny was going to be asked to stand aside.
Semin remained a favourite with most Dynamo fans after his first stint at the club, which resulted in the club winning the Ukrainian title in 2009 and reaching the last four of the Uefa Cup that season.
Since taking over, Semin has not let the Dynamo faithful down - with Luzhny seemingly happy to stay by his side as a loyal assistant.
The recent demolition of Besiktas was followed up with a 2-0 win at Metalurh Donetsk on Saturday to provide a good start to the second half of the Ukrainian season after the country's long winter break.
It was also a reminder to Metalurh's richer neighbours that although Shakhtar have a massive 12-point lead in the Ukrainian Premier League, Dynamo have not given up the chase for their 14th title just yet.
"We are now very well prepared. I wanted us to win the match in the last round against Besiktas in impressive fashion, and it was especially important that we won the first match away from home. We did that and now we go on. It was good preparation for the match against Manchester City. I think we'll be even sharper against them and I'm optimistic that the result may be good," Semin told a local TV station on Sunday.
He hardly predicted that Dynamo would romp their way to the trophy but, for the often-cautious Semin, it was almost rampant euphoria.
Another cause for optimism is that Semin seems to have found the right touch and invigorated the evergreen former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko, who scored in both legs against Besiktas.
Earlier in the year, the man who was instrumental in Milan winning the 2003 Champions League - not only for his winning strike in the penalty shoot-out against Juventus but also his efforts in the earlier rounds - looked, at 34, like he was losing his interest in the game and appetite for goals.
At one stage, there was even speculation that he would retire at the end of this campaign rather than carry on until next season, which culminates in Ukraine and Poland co-hosting Euro 2012 - at which Shevchenko has previously said that he is desperate to play.
Perhaps as big a danger to City though is Ukraine international right-sided midfielder Oleh Gusev, who hasn't attracted as much attention as Shevchenko as he has not played outside of his native land.
Like Shevchenko, he also scored twice against Besiktas, although scoring isn't his main attribute. The 27-year-old's speed and accuracy when crossing the ball could pose a huge threat to City's often-erratic defence.
Gusev, who has been at Dynamo since 2003, is believed to be keen on a big-money move this summer - and could be using the Europa League to state his case.
But perhaps one of City's biggest fears will be the conditions on the night of the first leg. The famous 12th man for the Bilo-Syni (White-Blues) is not the 16,000 baying Ukrainians packed into the compact Valeriy Lobanovskiy - but the temperature, which will be at least five below zero when Thursday's game kicks off. The mercury level will be a shock even to England goalkeeper Joe Hart, let alone the snood-wearing Argentine Carlos Tevez.