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