The Stadion Miejski im. Wladyslawa Krola in Poland plays host to a Champions League qualifying third-round first-leg tie on Tuesday, as Dynamo Kiev take on Sturm Graz.
The Ukrainian powerhouses made it past Fenerbahce in the second round of qualifying, while their Austrian counterparts are entering at this stage of the tournament.
Even amid the devastating scenes of conflict across their homeland, Dynamo Kiev – led by steadfast veteran Mircea Lucescu – harnessed all of their continental experience to dump Fenerbahce out of the Champions League in the second round of qualifying.
Neither side could make the breakthrough in the first leg, but a particularly bad-tempered second leg went the way of the Ukrainians after extra time, as Vitaliy Buyalskyi and Oleksandr Karavaev netted against the 10 men of Fenerbahce.
While a plethora of players have fled Ukraine under new legislation from FIFA allowing them to do so, Lucescu has retained the core of his first-team players, and they are building up to the start of the new Ukrainian Premier League season on August 20.
The Ukrainian side were welcomed with open arms by Everton for a friendly encounter on Friday, during which they lost 3-0, but the scoreline was insignificant when the Toffees allowed supporter Paul Stratton – who has been delivering supplies to Ukrainian refugees – to come on and score a penalty.
Dynamo Kiev have progressed to the group stage of the Champions League in each of the last two seasons but have only progressed past that point once since the turn of the millennium, and Sturm Graz will have no room for sentimentality here.
This week’s visitors could not stop the Red Bull Salzburg juggernaut from storming to the Austrian Bundesliga title in the 2021-22 campaign, but they have already thrown the cat amongst the pigeons during the embryonic stages of the current season.
Christian Ilzer’s side played host to the champions in Saturday’s league encounter and ran out 2-1 winners, with 19-year-old Danish starlet Rasmus Hojlund netting twice before his compatriot Maurits Kjaergaard grabbed a consolation for Salzburg.
Four points from their opening two games has propelled Sturm Graz to the top of the Austrian Bundesliga rankings early doors, and victory over the holders has set Ilzer’s side up perfectly for their return to continental action.
Die Schwoazn made the Champions League group stage three years in a row between 1999 and 2001 but have not done so since, and they were also unable to progress to the knockout rounds of the Europa League last season.
Dynamo Kiev striker Ibrahim Kargbo is still on the long road to recovery from a tibia and fibula fracture, while left-back Volodymyr Kostevych will also remain absent for the continental encounter.
After scoring the crucial 114th-minute winner against Fenerbahce, Karavaev is challenging Tomasz Kedziora for the right-back spot, but the Pole will want to start in his homeland.
The hosts have managed to keep hold of highly-rated centre-back Ilya Zabarnyi for the time being, and all eyes should be on the 19-year-old this week.
Meanwhile, Sturm Graz striker Jakob Jantscher is undergoing rehabilitation for a turn muscle, but the 33-year-old would have had very little chance of displacing a man 14 years his junior in Hojlund.
Otar Kiteishvili and Niklas Geyrhofer also occupy spots in the treatment room, but Ilzer will be reluctant to alter the winning formula from the weekend either way.
Dynamo Kiev possible starting lineup:
Bushchan; Kedziora, Zabarnyi, Popov, Dubinchak; Sydorchuk, Shaparenko; Tsygankov, Buyalskyi, Verbic; Besedin
Sturm Graz possible starting lineup:
Siebenhandl; Gazibegovic, Wuthrich, Borkovic, Dante; Hierlander, Gorenc Stankovic, Prass; Horvat; Hojlund, Sarkaria