Three Golden Points: Barça – Dynamo

CL Preview: Barça – Dynamo Kiev, Tuesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Sports en Español

Imagine how good I'd be if I wore these!
Imagine how good I'd be if I wore these!

In the 10th century, Русь, or Kievan Rus’, controlled what we know as the Ukraine, Belorussia, and eastern Russia. There were notable figures like Vladimir the Great and his son Yaroslav the Wise and Kievan Rus’ ended up controlling a vast swatch of Eastern Europe that extended into eastern Russia. They wrote the Russkaya Pravda and made the Dnieper a major trading route. Modern Kiev probably owes much to those centuries of rule.

It’s easy, of course, to get lost in the ramblings of history, to find ourselves connecting Kievan Rus’ to the present in a direct line, and, what’s more, to think about the Ostrogoths that came before that as somehow connected to the fairly ridiculous historical comparison we made last time with Visigothic maraudings in reverse. We could continue that and say that we are fighting the next battle in our made up war, moving from Italy to the Ukraine (with Barcelona as a proxy for the actual Ukraine), and ending up in Russia on Matchday 3, but that, of course, seems even more far-fetched than it did the first time I went about it.

Whether Lobanovskyi ever tried to channel Vladimir or Yaroslav, we’ll never know–perhaps there are better historical equivalents, but, again, I never did study Europe and I’m far too lazy to do a truly in-depth look at the history of these countries–but certainly there are connections between the Ukraine of footballing antiquity and our modern Barcelona-based juggernaut. Valeriy Vasylyovych Lobanovskyi, for those of you who are unaware, is one of the fathers of modern football. There are, of course, disputes about who developed what or influenced who, but it’s generally accepted that Lobanovskyi was one of the first to push players into that realm of physicality that allowed them to run for 90 minutes, to play, in essence, Total Football because they could stand the pace and no one else could.

Basketball fans will recognize the press, with all your players pushing up, up, up, harassing and yipping at the heels of anyone with the ball. You do not get a moment’s rest, you do not get time to think. That, as I understand it, is the basic tenant of Lobanovskyi. The rest is all icing on an otherwise brutally hardworking cake. Lobanovskyi played for and coached Dynamo Kiev in their most glorious years, pushing them to the exalted heights of a European Cup Winners Cup title and dominating the Soviet league for a decade and a half. He was their coach in 1999 when they made a run to the Champions League semifinal (losing 4-3 to Bayern Munich on aggregate).

Lobanovskyi passed away in 2002 after a stroke, but his legend is as big today as it ever was during his lifetime. He was a brilliant tactician and a taskmaster to the extreme, demanding everything from his players. A certain Catalan coach has learned well from the Lobanovskyi model, that much is obvious when you watch Guardiola’s side, but he has also seamlessly grafted in Johann Cruyff and Rinus Michels. Dynamo and a young striker named Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko have also learned well from Lobanovskyi and tomorrow’s match is as much a battle between competing tactics as it is between competing talents. Whether there are videos of Ostrogothic hordes bearing down on hapless Catalan families being shown in the Camp Nou dressing room prior to the kickoff is anyone’s guess, but no doubt Guardiola has at least studied the recent history of the club in order to ascertain their weaknesses. Chygrynskiy has, hopefully, given the good word on how they play and perhaps he can point out the historical significance of the mascot named Русь on the sideline.*

This is a bigger match than anticipated. I’ve known about it since the group stage draw, naturally, but somehow the actual value of those three points didn’t really hit me until earlier today. With Dynamo currently top of the group, having beaten Ruben Kazan 3-1 in the Ukraine, the results of this match will go a long ways towards qualifying us for the knockout stages or, if the result is a negative, a long ways towards sending us to the Europa League. What I mean is, I expect Inter to win against Ruben Kazan, even in Russia, so we need to jump Dynamo into either first or second now and never look back. Playing from behind (a draw or a loss would put us at the very best in second) is never fun, so we, uh, we shouldn’t do it.

What’s not so great for us is that we’re entering the match with a couple of injuries and some fairly fatigued players. Saturday’s stompfest at Malaga didn’t help, sidelining both Henry and Chygrynskiy for this match and forcing Ibra to make an early comeback from an ankle injury. While that ankle was obviously not too painful, the extra miles can’t be beneficial to his recovery and it’s very unfortunate that his appearance and subsequent goal came at the expense of Henry’s leg. Regardless of what your thoughts on Henry are (good, bad, who?), he’s integral to this side simply by being the only LW/ST that we currently have. Jeffren isn’t ready for the CL primetime and Bojan is injured as well, so losing our other LW was not a good situation.

I do think, however, that it does spell the end of Iniesta’s bench-riding times. That’s a good thing. It also means that Keita will continue to have time on the field, which is also a good thing. Here are my thoughts on the Iniesta situation, quickly: Guardiola knows that we’re likely to play 60+ matches this year and that only 6 of them have currently been played (plus 3 super cup matches) and that Keita is currently in a superb run of form. Why disrupt that and put Iniesta back in when he can both give Keita the confidence boost and keep Iniesta fresh for just such situations as we find ourselves in now? I said this towards the beginning of the Malaga match, by the way, so it’s not me looking back on it and finding ways to approve of Guardiola’s moves. Now we have a chance to put Keita and Iniesta on the field in an important situation that highlights, I think, Guardiola’s trust in Iniesta, who has been relegated to the bench yet is also expected to come out and play 100% in a Champions League clash when called upon. That’s trust and understanding of Iniesta’s professional manner and nature.

So on that note, here’s my lineup: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Ibra, Messi.

That, I think, is a lineup most of us can get behind. It does leave us weak on the bench, but what choice do we have other than to roll out our best starting 11 and beat Dynamo with it? Messi is still going to be pissed, but much more controlled about it, and he’s going to slice through Dynamo’s defense time and again. Dynamo’s defenders are going to curse the name of Weligton for years to come, I predict, even as they try desperately to emulate him. The reffing won’t be as horrendous, I can pretty much assure you of that, but I’ll discuss the particulars of that later. Suffice to say for now that stomping on Messi or punching Pique will result in instant dismissal.

A tactical note from Malaga that won’t have been lost on Dynamo or their coach, Valery Gazzaev**, is the man-marking of Xavi and its influence on the game. Whenever you man-mark Xavi from the outset, it takes us a little bit of time to find our rhythm. I would be very surprised if Dynamo doesn’t man-mark Xavi simply because it’s an easy way to stifle our creativity (and far easier to do, I have to admit, than man-marking Messi out of the game). When Malaga stopped man-marking Xavi, the side began to look much, much better, but then Malaga reverted and the side struggled a little bit. That might not take place, as some have suggested, if Iniesta is played at his usual spot from last year as a pressure release valve and a second creative midfielder. For the moment, however, keeping Xavi in check is the only way to keep the team in check at all.

So, it’s Kievans and Catalans, Lobanovskyis and Cruyffs, Gazzaevs and Guardiolas, Ibras and Shevas. And of course the rest of the players.

As far as I know, the match is on Fox Soccer en Español, but if you’re a DirectTV subscriber you should get it in English as well. I’m not positive, though, because I don’t have DirectTV. The match is at 2:45pm EST, meaning your faithful bloggers will be tape-delaying it at their houses via DVR and won’t be able to liveblog it. Anyone up for the challenge?

Something else:

Referee: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands); he appears to have no prior experience, having just earned his elite referee status this year. Will his first CL group stage experience mean he will be more or less likely to bend to the will of the home crowd? We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but inexperience could make for a bad night for some players…

Assistant #2: Norbertus Josephus C. Simons. He goes by Berry, naturally enough, while fourth official Bernie Raymond Blom apparently goes by Kevin. What? You Dutchies are crazies! Whenever there is a wrong offside given, we all have to scream “Norbertus!”, wherever we are. If your family/friends/coworkers begin to wonder about your sanity, just tell them someone on the Internet told you to do it.

Official prediction: 2-1. Goals by Ibra and Messi. It’s going to be a tense affair for the most part as Dynamo try to kick their way out of the stadium, but we won’t let that happen. Bring it on, baby, bring it on.

Match times:
Local/Barcelona: 8:45pm
New York/EST: 2:45pm
San Diego/PST: 11:45am
Sydney, Australia: 4:45am Wednesday
Singapore: 2:45am Wednesday
India: 12:15am Wednesday (if you’re from India, a reader has suggested you check out this petition trying to get La Liga broadcast there)

* I’m pretty positive that they don’t have a mascot named Русь. But how cool would it be if my faux-historical ramblings made a real life connection? Sweet!
** Gazzaev is another famous name in Soviet football so there is probably some amount of tension between his approach and Lobanovskyi’s. I don’t want to make it seem like Dynamo’s coaches are all products of Lobanovskyi’s school of thought, but there has to be some amount of influence simply because of the name and presence (there’s a statue outside the stadium of him). Whether Gazzaev was ever a student of Lobanovskyi’s I’m not sure, but it seems clear that they functioned within the same realm and are both huge names in the Russia/Ukraine world. Gazzaev began playing a few years after Lobanovskyi retired as a player, but no doubt was at least influenced by Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo sides since he faced them often enough. For those of you reading at home with access to Inverting the Pyramid, I think there’s a passage about the two of them in there, but I’m not sure if my aging memory is right.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Ahh thankfully this is at the Camp Nou..

    Can’t imagine going to the Ukraine for this one with so many injuries and inconsistencies.

    1. Forgot to say..we’re getting a n00b ref? Damnit! Well at least the rules are still fresh in his mind.

    2. I think I’d rather go to the Ukraine now than December, but whatever.

      Love the history lesson in the preview, thanks. Also I love countries where you can add a “the” in front of the name. The Ukraine, The Sudan, etc.

  2. Thanks for the history lesson, Isaiah. I hope you can continue this kind of preview during the Champions Leauge, it made me look up some things on wikipedia, but that is exactly why I like it 🙂

    Your line-up is perfect, there is no better option. But somehow I doubt that Pep plays Iniesta as a LW attacker. Though, I’ll be happy and confident if your line-up is being confirmed.
    And this leads to the only point where I disagree:
    I predict a win with +3 goals for us. So, not that close…

    1. No problem on the history lesson, Helge. I learn quite a bit by going through these things myself (on wikipedia, of course).

      I’m going to have to check up on the Gazzaev-Lobanovskyi connection, of course.

  3. Okay, Pep declared Henry not playing tomorrow. Who from ‘B’ do you guys think is gonna get some starting minutes tomorrow?

    1. “We’ll have to see how we recover before the Dynamo Kiev game after so much effort and sacrifice. If one player cannot be replaced by another we’ll turn to the youth team.” said Guardiola.
      I suppose he was waiting on how Henry would respond. So now that he is out of the match, I’m expecting some Athletic player to be on the team sheet for tomorrrow’s match, but I’m not quite sure would get to debut though. Hope Messi & Ibra will be able to play the whole match & only Pedro would be used to sub Iniesta

    2. I don’t think any B teamers will get starting minutes. Pedro! might at LW, but I don’t think anyone else will get the call up.

  4. You are right to point out the tactical innovations of Lobanovskyi. In addition to pace and the press, Lobanovskyi was also a believer in patterns… in players playing into space, in players moving into those spaces in predetermined patterns.

    Check out the second, sublime, goal that Dynamo Kiev made in the 1986 Cup Winners Cup ( about 2 min in). Three no-look passes and a beautiful chip. Atletico Madrid were completely outclassed.

    1. We are all in the same boat, but’s got their own 😉
      I’ve read a news there about Bojan being most likely back against Almeria. But there was no source at all…

    2. Here is the article they’re probably referring to.

      If he does return against Almeria that would be great. Not that GolTV will spell it correctly since they had “Almeira vs Racing” on the other day.

  5. UPDATE:
    Here’s the squad list for the match: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Touré, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Busquets, Messi, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Jeffren, Gai.

    Note the inclusion of Gai Assulin for the first time in his carrer (in the CL). I still don’t think he gets the start, but hopefully we get to see him come on for Xavi at 4-0.

    Sport is claiming that Iniesta still isn’t 100%, which is why he isn’t starting or playing many minutes. That does change things a bit, doesn’t it?

    1. Told yeah somebody might be included in the squad list… But hope Pep is not compelled to give him some playtime.

    2. I would be very excited to see Gai start in Henry’s position. I hope it is not just a fantasy of mine!!

    3. But Gai is a midfielder like Xavi…Why not hope for Gai in Keita’s spot and Iniesta in Henry’s?

      Of course, the whole field is Iniesta’s spot…

    4. That’s right, dude. Gai is a pure good old fashioned winger. He usually plays on the left but supposedly this season he was moved to the right a few times and performed very well.

      His tricks, flair, and stepovers sometimes remind you too much of a certain thong wearing Portugese or even a buck-toothed Brazilian but he has buckets of talent. Just not ready for prime time based on pre-season.

    5. Isaiah, Like Miguel said Gai is a winger, and would stretch the opponents defence. Just like Alves or Messi do on the right wing. Imagine Keita and Xavi and The Destroyer(Yaya) with 10 feet more space in the middle!!!

    6. gai has a lot of skill and dribble, but if one of those dimamo players hits him hard… there will be two gais.

      bring on the ghostface killah pep!!

  6. gai impressed me a lot versus the sheiks. don’t know how effective he is in front of goal but his passing & positioning is something that neither jeffren nor pedro will ever possess imho.

    hope the probable acquisition of a lw this summer doesn’t result in another exodus a la fabi to arsenal 🙁

  7. Hello,

    I believe this is a must read before the match

    Wow it is quite a story. Especially the Death Match!!!

    1. Yes, what a story (Death Match). I had no idea that the Nazis played footy when they weren’t wreaking havoc on Europe.

  8. To be honest, I’d rather bring on Jeffren than Gai or Pedro. He is very direct and physically stronger than Pedro. Not fantastic by any means but we’ve no Bojan and no Henry.
    Iniesta and Messi from the two wings should be more than enough to beat Dynamo

  9. Gai is a pure winger? I’ll defer to your (plural) superior knowledge on this, but I definitely saw him as more of an attacking midfielder than an out-and-out winger.

  10. Isaiah, I love how you have given our opponent personality in this article. Excellent writing; perhaps you should consider it a profession.

    Sucks that it’s on FSE tomorrow, though…I’m going to have to stream from the local library, and I’m counting on the BFB Liveblog to provide me with backup streams, so….Love ya guys!

    1. Are you seriously getting laid off? thats too bad I wish you the best. I hope you find a better job ASAP. If you work half as hard at work as you do here you deserve tobe hired by the best in your line of work.

    2. Aye yaye yaye! That’s too bad. Here I am entering the labor force in a year now and you drop that bomb on me. I suppose, then, I wish you the best of luck in finding a job. You should put this on your resume. But I, overeducated and underexperienced…well, I worry.

  11. /

    Off-topic, but something I think a lot of us would be interested in (Hector?)…UEFA investigating 40 early-stage CL games over the last 4 years on suspicion of match-fixing. The volume of betting surprised me–I guess it can be over $1b for a quarterfinal, which attracts the interest of various shady sorts who have an interest in money-laundering. I know it’s not exactly news that this goes on, but it’s disturbing.

  12. I think that this match is going to be intense, and Dynamo are going to be playing for a draw. Group stage matches are strategic, and at the moment they sit atop the group with 3 points, with 0 for Rubin and 1 each for us and Inter. Draw with us, and it’s still a 2-point gap. If Inter win, they tie for top and we sit second and frankly, a little worried.

    As usual, we have to score first and early, to keep the match open. The longer we go without scoring, the more compressed/compact their lines become, until their defenders have joined hands in the box, singing “Kumbaya.” If we get anything like the quality and quanitity of chances that we had against Inter, we have to close the deal.

  13. Gudjohnsen praised Pep’s training techniques:


  14. Any fellow Indian knows if Zee Sports is showing our match today? What’s the matter with the crappy ten sports!? Week in week out the EPL club matches are being shown anyway, why not take a break and show the match of the Campeóns!? At least they could have showed the replay of our match! But no they have to show the freaking ARSEhole’s match!! Fuck it, just to spite these english c*ck sucking channels at least I want Barca to win the CL again… Please Xavi, do it for my sake. Kick all the english asses for me. Do it like never before. Do it in a way that all the freaking Indian Channels feel ashamed of themselves for not showing the respect your Tiki Taka deserves, the respect you deserve. Rip all their defenses into pieces Xavi; every Vidic, every Terry, every Carragher, every Gallas should be afraid to even stand on the same pitch as you, they need to wet their shorts after having just a look at you… You can provide the motivation even to the dirty Madridistas. Do it, lets make it happen, the all-Spanish CL final, lift it at the Bernabeu… PLEASE

    1. Hear Hear! I too don’t understand this need for Asian channels to focus on matches featuring teams from EPL. Its not as if all of them are great. The only reason has to be that the bosses of most of the sports channels come from England and hence think/push those matches to public. Bring on the EPL teams, we are ready to teach them football again.

    2. here in canada we happen to be getting the arsenal game as well, so maybe there are just certain rights for that particular match. the same network is showing the barca game but only for people in the west coast :S i only have basic cable so i can’t switch to that channel. sucks

  15. Impressive preview, Isaiah.

    Iniesta is probably under a special rehabilitation program that is not directly related to his recent injury but to his overall physical state. May be it’s the case to decrease the possibilities of future injuries. There are no guarantees but it feed the probability monster in a positive manner. That could be the reason for less playing time keeping a space for more outfield preparations (or gaining some weight preparing for the program to enhance some muscles?). The game against Malaga may send a sign about it. Keita for Iniesta is reasonable, pedro for Iniesta is unlikely. Especially when Ibra is not a starter.

    The match of death story is stamped in the history of football as much as another story during that dark period when the Hungarian Keeper allowed Italy to score and win the world cup 1938 final after being informed that the Italian team received a message from Mussollini that was short and clear: ”Win or Die!”. The keeper later said: ”We lost a final, but we saved the lives of 11 men”.

    The message in Italian was actually: ”Vincere O morire!” translated lettarly it means “To win or to die!”. Yet it’s still unclear if it was a normal usage of a slogan in Fascistic tense or an embedded life threat.

    Anyone noticed that Gudjohnsen made some Hleb-ing comments in that interview?

    It will be interesting to watch Andriy Shevchenko once again in the CL with Dynamo, where he enjoyed a great time before moving to Milan.

    1. I did notice that, Ramzi. I don’t understand why a player cannot just say “Hey, I gave it my best shot. It didn’t work.” I reckon that some of it is professional pride.

    2. In retrospect Guddy did sound a bit whiny, but I don’t really think much less of him.

      Thanks for the extra dose of history, Ramzi. I should read a real book about soccer one day.

  16. ALSO, I have been cruising websites to find the best way to watch the match, and it WILL BE on Direc TV, channel 463, live.

  17. if you have direct tv they play virtually every champions league game and europa league game live, and some of them in HD. not sure if you have to have the sports pack or its just something that comes with it automatically. all i know is I get more games on tuesday and wednesdays than I know how to handle!!!

  18. Boatforever, tensports isn’t showing the Barca game tonight nor is Zeesports. You would think they would show a lil respect to the BEST European Champions of the decade.. sadly no. However in the channels defence they have a voting system and the games with the most votes is aired on Tensports and the second is shown on Zeesports. Sadly again, because of the successful marketing of the EPL here, we lose out again cos the fan base of the EPL teams is far higher than Barcelona’s.

    and to make things worse, the lack of spanish league coverage this season is going to hit us even harder now. Pity!

    1. I knew they would show Liverpool match or Arsenal match & Bayern vs Juventus match. But I was kinda hoping they would at least show the replay of our match late night at 2:15am(or is it morning?) I actually wanted to stay awake to watch at least that, but I guess no luck 🙁

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