The Battle of Kiev: Dynamo – Barça

CL Preview: Dynamo Kiev – Barcelona, Wednesday 2:45pmEST, FSE and DirectTV

Maidan Nzalezhnosti, Kiev

Stand on the western bank of Dnieper, looking east towards the horizon. Imagine there are no buildings, that the Patona Bridge is fifteen hundred years from being built, Maidan Nezalezhnosti generations from being a political and social landmark. Legend has it that Kyi stood here in the 6th century with his two brothers, Schek and Khoryv, and his sister, Lybid and decided to found a city. I like to think they stood just east of Maidan, looking at the Matveevskyi zalyv, an island in the middle of the Dnieper, considering what kind of city they would build, what would grow from their mythical roots. I like to think they stood right here, imagining a world where Kievans were unmatched throughout the land, where they controlled their own destiny, where they had garnered respect from all who came in contact with them.

Fast forward to the present day, to Valeri Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, to the UEFA Champions League matchday 6, to the match that will define a year’s worth of hard work and a generation’s aspirations to be a part of the pantheon of European powers. This is not the Kiev of Vladimir or Yarsolav, of Kievan Rus or battles across the plains; this is the Kiev of Gazzaev and Shevchenko, of Lobanovky’s legacy, and of the modern Ukrainian state.

They arrive in this match, the final match of the group phase, needing a full-blown win. I titled the preview of our home match against Dynamo “Three Golden Points” because they are what have changed the complexion of this coming match so significantly. Obviously the Inter match was huge, but in retrospect the Dynamo match was just as important. What remains is a cluttered table, with us on top (8pts), followed two points later by Inter (6) and Rubin Kazan (6), and Dynamo (5pts) on the bottom. Roughly it breaks down like this:

  • Any win gets us through in first.
  • Any draw gets us through; we’ll be first is Inter and Rubin Draw or Inter beats Rubin. If Rubin beats Inter, we will be second because of head-to-head.
  • If we lose, we can still qualify first if Inter and Rubin draw and we don’t lose by more than 2 goals. Alternately, we can qualify second if we lose by more than two goals and Inter and Rubin draw. If we lose and either Inter or Rubin win, we can qualify second at best, but only if we lose by two goals or less. For instance, we can lose 3-2 or 4-2 and be assured of qualification because of our 2-0 win in Barcelona against Dynamo that gives us the head-to-head advantage (as well as the goal differential that would be the tiebreaker if we were to lose 2-0).

Whatever their thoughts of bringing the game to us, they’re going to have to bring it like a Shivan Dragon with crazy mana tapped out. I suppose a better dork-tastic reference would have to be the Serra Angel, so they can continue to play some defense, but whatever, nerdos, go back to your Mines of Moria! (But don’t forget your Phial of Galadriel!)

Xavi, who should get his 100th appearance for the blaugrana in Europe tomorrow, has said we’re playing for our CL lives tomorrow and that should worry Dynamo plenty. We don’t want to come in second in the group and we certainly don’t want to leave it to chance as is possible in option 3 above. We’re so close that we won’t let that happen.

Something that will help Dynamo in their quest: freezing temperatures. Weather Underground says that Kiev will be between 32F and 28F (0C and -2C), which isn’t as bad as it was against Rubin, but still shouldn’t be fun. Thankfully there’s only a 10% chance of precipitation (which would be a gross snow/rain mix) at any point during the match. At least that, eh?

So then, our squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Márquez, Piqué, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, The Yaya, Busi, Keiteee, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Bojan, Ibrahimovic, Henry, Messi.

Note the inclusion of Milito, who hasn’t played a competitive match since his injury in April 2008. Don’t expect to see him take any part in the match as long as it remains competitive and even if it’s a blowout in our favor, I’m not sure anything will happen other than him warming up at the end and slowly working his way back into the squad. Chygrynskyi, who is cup-tied and so can’t play, is also making the journey with the team, despite his forced exclusion from the lineup. I think that’s a nice touch by Guardiola, but also rather smart because he’s getting Chygrynskyi better integrated with the team and also he gets to visit his home country. So that’s nice and cuddly.

My lineup: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Keita, Henry, Ibra, Messi.

Iniesta takes a seat to Keita’s defensive steel, but I expect Don Andres to replace Henry early in the second half. We’re going for it because, as Guardiola said, you can’t win the Champions League in December, but you can lose it. That’s the truth, Mr. Guardiola. So we’re going all out, but so are they. Expect something a bit more open, a bit more “we need to win” from Dynamo and expect us to cut them to shreds.

Official Prediction: 1-3, goals by Ibra, Xavi, and Messi. Deal sealed.

Gametime: 9:45pm local/Kiev; 8:45pm Barcelona 2:45pmEST/New York (check your local time here)
TV: This game will be shown live in the US on Fox Sports en Español and on DirectTV. It will be replayed at 5pm on FSC.

And just because mood lighting is great, from reader Chris:

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. nice preview…we should definately go for the win here. anything less would be irresponsible.

  2. nice writeup..nice info..nice messi video.

    I really enjoy your game previews very much. May I say, I love them as much as Brick Tamland loves lamp.

  3. I like your lineup, but I’m torn as to whether Iniesta or Henry will start.

    At the risk of completely branding myself as a nerd… I own two Shivan Dragons, one fourth and one fifth edition. I also own a Serra Angel, although I don’t remember what edition it was from.

  4. Nice preview, loving the LOTR reference (does that make me a geek? :P)

    Lol, the video makes it seem like he died or something 😀

    Yaya will definiately play this game; as per usual in this season’s Champions League (Milan and EE (darnit!) qualified How crazy would it be if we got Milan in the next round (granted, we’d have to top the group) That’d make for the second ‘homecoming’ this season of our two superstar forwards.)

    No Henry hating or anything, but I actually hope that Iniesta starts on the left. I don’t like him there and I think it affects our width, but in this kinda game, the absolute control of the midfield is crucial. I won’t be suprised if Iniesta’s on the bench (what defence would like to play a fully fresh Iniesta an hour into the game?). That said, if the game turns out to be a dud (ie. Dynamo play “defensive/counter-attacking”) Henry off the bench looks more appealing than Iniesta off the bench (instant offense).

    On a side note, here in Canada, we’re getting a snow storm. Looking at 20-30cm of snow. Whoopee! (on the plus side, if it DOES snow, I get to stay home and watch the game 😛 )

  5. Always enjoy the info on the city we’re playing in you put in the write-ups. Sure, I can click on wikipedia as easily as the next guy, but often I’d rather not. I’m going to be negative and predict a 0-0 draw, because of the setting and the conditions. Maybe Ibra gets one. He’s from Sweden, so he should be OK. That’s some overly simplistic logic, I know, but so be it.

  6. I’m gonna pick a Shivan Dragon scoreline of +1/+0 With our own Yayan Dragon smoking it al fondo de las mallas.

    ..and as it’s nerd fess up time. I played OD&D…back when DM’s were men and had no enclyclopedic references except their own imaginations.

  7. Nice write up but if we lose 2-0 to Dynamo we are screwed. So long as we score in Kiev then they need to win by 3 to overtake us. However, if they were to win 2-0, that would negate our 2-0 win in Barca, and neither side would advance on away goals. YOu state that we’d then prevail due to overall goal differential (in the group), there we are +3 and they are -1, so after a 2-0 win we’d both be +1. At that point you have to look at overall goals scored in the group, and there they win, they’ve already scored 1 more than us even before that hypothetical result.

    So generally they need a 3 goal win but 2-0 works for them too.

    1. You’re quite right about the 2-0 scoreline, Gilmango. Good math skills.

      At 2-0 we would still qualify if Inter and Rubin draw, albeit in second. Damn.

  8. ________________VV

    Don’t think Pep’s gonna play the MF combination of Yaya, Xavi & Keita unless forced to. I’d say we play our strongest line-up since we are heading into a break… Well that might include P! instead of Henry but the Frenchman needs to develop his chemistry with Ibra!!

    Subs : P! for Henry (IMO he should be played mainly on LW and see if he can really develop to take-over from Henry)
    Keita/Busi for Xavi with Iniesta sliding into the maestro’s role
    Bojan for Ibra

  9. By the way. I did not create video, only found it one night. Thought it deserved to be shared. Someone should make one in english. Best messi compilation ever. I think I shed at least two tears that eve.

  10. good preview. i am with boat forever on line up. i think keita will start from bench. pep usually likes to go with his first elevan in all crunch situations and this is crunch situation. expecting more open game as they have to win so it should be fun.

  11. The intersection of magic cards and barca? Dear Lord…Then again, shrewd references like that keep me reading this blog. Great write up, but overly cheery photo of Kiev. I’ve been there and never felt comfortable in that city.

    I actually hope we trample on them like a Force of Nature that is given flying through some enchant creature. *sigh*

  12. goal by xavi? nice prediction.

    it’s so funny to me that those temperatures would seem cold. I guess consistent weather below 20 will do that to you when compared to weather in Barcelona.
    It will be interesting to see what pep does on the left side. Keita and Henry bring more height and strength but iniesta brings the possession game. If Henry plays i think it would be better to see him from the start. it’s hard for old guys to get those hamstrings flexible in that type of weather.

    When is the inter/rubin game? it would be interesting if they had a draw and we let dynamo win by one goal to keep inter out of the next round. But that would be an awfully boring match and only something one would do on a video game

  13. Valdes-alves-pique-puyi-abidal-xavi-toure-iniesta-pedro!-ibracadabra-messi 🙂
    3-1 messi,pique and ibra …i hope 😛

  14. Keita starts. At first, don’t concede. All wins start from there.

    But we have to win this one and we should, because they will be playing for the win, which means an open match. We win an open match against any side on the planet. But we must start by not conceding. Keita not only gives us pace, defense and physical preaence, but he’s a legitimate goal scoring threat off the break.

    For the same reason, Henry starts, because on the wing, getting the ball at pace, he’s very good. This match will also hinge on taking your chances, and I trust Henry with the ball and a scoring chance a lot more than I do Iniesta.

    We also have to win for a more favorable matchup in the next round. You build in the CL, and we are still rounding into form. Chelsea or United wouldn’t be my pick for the first knockout stage.

    And does anyone realize that if we do the expected and win the World Club Championships, we will have won SIX major trophies in less than 12 months?

  15. What I didn’t know about the Eto’o situation but now do, thanks to Sid Lowe:

    “It didn’t make sense.

    Only it did. Sort of. There was a financial and contractual imperative too; the board pushed for Eto’o to go as well. More, even, than Guardiola did. Forget the truck of cash, Barcelona considered the deal a straight swap. Eto’o’s contract was due for renewal. He wanted €10m net, a four-year deal, and no longer qualified for the 23% tax band. From Barcelona’s point of view, his salary would suddenly leap to €14.5m a year; more than €20m extra over the duration. Then there was the signing on fee, at around €10m. Barcelona didn’t see Eto’o’s departure in terms of a loss so much as an act of good housekeeping, enabling them to secure Ibrahimovic below €50m, the limit they’d set and the price at which they balked over Villa.”

    And my favorite bit from his match story:

    “Last night’s clásico was the first ever match to be shown on the silver screen and boasted the greatest cast in history, a collection of superheroes to rival the best cinemas with the stickiest floors. Six candidates for the Ballón d’Or, the last three Fifa World Players, over €350m worth of signings. And yet the star was the man who plays with his hair in his eyes and his heart on his sleeve. Superman’s fine but sometimes what you really need is Captain Caveman.”

    1. I really loved that final touch by Sid Lowe, I wonder why none of these la liga writters ever come and check out this site, sometimes I wonder if they do but keep anonymous(spell check).

  16. And I think the outcome of the match will depend on whether we score first. I think it’s imperative that we score first at any rate, but we HAVE to score first here, because then it will really get them to open up, and at that point, they’re doomed.

    I say 2-1 us, with goals by Messi and Ibrahimovic.

    I’m still not sure that Guardiola has a “best” lineup yet. I think that he would if Iniesta were the Ghostface Killa that he was last season, but that guy is only showing up in short bursts. So right now, I think that his notions of a best lineup include Keita, over any other midfielder except for Xavi.

    I think that his best lineup on the offensive end includes Henry, only because of the omnipresent danger that he presents, even when that danger isn’t manifesting itself, as it only rarely has this season. The reason that Abidal had all that space to run into and cross for that assist is because when Henry left, Depor said “Whew!” and essentially shifted to the right.

    It’s good for us, but people still don’t take P! seriously, even when he is playing on the left. It’s something that boggles my mind, because his results argue otherwise. But they don’t. He’s still the sub, still the little dude from the B team, then he cuts their throat.

    But the Inter, Clasic and Depor matches (Xerez was an aberration) showed that this club is rounding into form. Now that all of the external obligations are gone and they can play together, with everyone healthy and not jetting halfway around the world and back to play their hearts out, we should begin to see what we’ve all been waiting for.

    And it will be just in time.

    By the by, if we come into this thing slack, Dynamo could lay a shock on our asses. I don’t think that we will, because Rubin Kazan taught us a valuable lesson. But the warnings will be flying thick and fast from Guardiola, I’m sure.

    1. Dynamo beat/drew Rubin. They are a kick ass team, especially at home. Im kind of anxious regarding this match.

  17. I concur with Kevin that we need to score first. If they scored first then they will no doubt park the bus and count on counters. Their mission is to steal a win, not to create it. They know that Barcelona will be more adventurous as time goes by and they know it’s then where they can damage. A goal make us more secured during build up and more calm in the last pass and the finishing. We missed lot of one-on-one when we were so anxious to score.

    Keita will start, that’s as certain as Xavi starting. As for the third spot in offense, it’s true that if Kiev left lot of space between their keeper and Defense, Henry can walk over their team single handed. But I doubt they will.
    As for Kevin remark:

    “I think that his best lineup on the offensive end includes Henry, only because of the omnipresent danger that he presents, even when that danger isn’t manifesting itself, as it only rarely has this season. The reason that Abidal had all that space to run into and cross for that assist is because when Henry left, Depor said “Whew!” and essentially shifted to the right.”
    As I mentioned before, I think that if Ibra started to switch positions with Henry more often, we can overcome the periods when Henry just can’t put the needed performance on the left (sometimes he simply park his football Vehicle and pass out). Against Depor in the second half you could see how Henry was out of service on the flank, and Ibra was almost isolated in the middle for some periods. If they were doing the switches properly, may be the performance would have enhanced significantly. At the center it’s not as demanding physically as on the flank, so it will be good to share the dirty work and fun fairly. At least till we overcome the current situation.

    And If Pedro is not taken seriously by the opponent then that’s another reason to start him I think. If Henry substitute made depor Defense just leave their right flank open as none of the Barcelona players have any quality to expose it anymore after Henry left (I obviously don’t agree here), then the trick worked perfectly: Don’t use Henry so the opponent let you score through their right flank, put Pedro there and start counting goals 😀

    I hope that the player who is in the right form start this game regardless of the name and history. Whether its Henry, Iniesta, or Pedro. If Henry can light his flame again then you are all invited to Celebrate Henry comeback (I will pay the costs of your comments for that night). If its Iniesta then I will celebrate for two nights instead of one. But so far Pedro was the most consistent player out of the three. Iniesta barely played on the flank this season, and when he played he wasn’t the player I supported for that position since last season, and Henry was the shadow of his form so far, damaged more than helped. That’s why I am so worried about this thing. I don’t want to think how it will go if Henry Or/and Iniesta do not improve before the ACN.

    1. Just some thoughts on Henry and the left flank. I thought that from watching the Depor game, I noticed he was left on the flank by himself a lot (as noted by comments here), but I attributed that to Iniesta tracking back, and not moving forward, rather than Abidal or Ibra not helping Henry with an outlet to pass to.

      I do notice a substantial increase in attacking from the right (as we should), but I think that it is making us WAY more predictable. Last year we attacked just as often from the left and that was thanks to Iniesta and Henry working much more cohesively. I just hope they get it together soon!

      Still, not complaining, because we ARE winning!

    2. “At the center it’s not as demanding physically as on the flank, so it will be good to share the dirty work and fun fairly. At least till we overcome the current situation.”

      I don’t agree with this, except when it comes to Messi attacking from the flank. I actually think it’s the other way around and that’s why player like Giovinco from Juve, and even Giuly excelled in the flank. If you think about it, it should be a lot easier for Henry given that most likely Ibra will definitely be marked by one defender.

      I think Henry should start and Pedro subbed later on. I think it’s more of Pedro being really effective especially when he brings his energy to a more or less tired side. His pace and runs will kill a tired RB. The space on the right flank created by Messi can also be exploited since Pedro can switch there as well.

    3. Btw, nice preview in theoffside but a poor choice in the picture. Freaked me out when I opened the browser to see if it has finished loading 😀

  18. this conversation is making me anxious…I’ll come back to this site after the game or when I’m more calm.

  19. There is no comparison between Pedro and Henry!!! Henry demands fear and respect on the left wing. Pedro is good to run around, he is a good winger with good finishing – a good substitution for Henry as in the last match. But I am sorry, I choose Henry for a starting role any day over Pedro!!! Henry creates extra danger during set pieces with his heading ability. He also holds ball much better than Pedro.

    1. I also believe Dynamo will be very physical with their sliding tackles, and Henry(former Premier League) will be more suited to this type of a physical game than Pedro.

  20. Great point by Kxevin, “I’m still not sure that Guardiola has a “best” lineup yet. I think that he would if Iniesta were the Ghostface Killa that he was last season, but that guy is only showing up in short bursts. So right now, I think that his notions of a best lineup include Keita, over any other midfielder except for Xavi.”

    I really think that the lingering injury followed by the virus has taken some of Iniesta’s strength away (and he was never the strongest to begin with). So far this season Keita has shown more. And yet we’ve almost never seen a Keita and Yaya in the same midfield; when Keita plays it is usually Busquets at DM and I definitely do NOT want to see Busquets out there today. So while I really want to see Yaya, Keita and Xavi, but would take Yaya, Ini, Xavi over Busquets, Keita, Xavi.

    I also agree that Henry is better than Ini or Pedro at left flank, with Pedro available to sub on.

  21. WTF, just read that Busquets is starting with Xavi and Keita, also Iniesta up front in place of Henry. Dang Pep, why can’t you play Yaya and Keita together?

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