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Champions League Preview: Dynamo Kiev - Barcelona

Kick-Off: Wednesday, December 9, 2009. 20:45 CET
Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Kiev

Outside Bet


Though Dynamo Kiev still remain in with a shot at progressing from a perilous looking Group F, it’s fair to say that they would not have picked Barcelona as the side of choice to play needing a victory in Matchday 6. It has been over two months since Rubin Kazan were brushed away 3-1 – their only win of the competition – but another success at this tardy stage would at least give the Ukrainians hope.

In imperious form on the domestic stage – Dynamo have registered 12 wins and three draws from 15 games, amassing a five point lead at the summit over closest rivals Shakhtar Donetsk - Valeriy Gazzaev’s men have lost only twice in Europe. Defeats against Barcelona and Inter earlier in the competition may well prove telling, though perhaps not as decisive as their inability to hold leads against the Nerazzurri.

The 1999 semi-finalists twice led the Italian champions at the San Siro only to allow Jose Mourinho’s men to recover to a 2-2 draw. There was greater pain at home, though. Andriy Shevchenko’s first half goal had given Gazzaev’s side the lead, which they would hold until the 86th minute, when Diego Milito struck. And worse was to follow as Wesley Sneijder snatched a late winner for the guests.

Whether the pain of those two experiences was still playing on their minds when they travelled to Kazan a fortnight ago it is impossible to tell, but the Bilo-Syni did not look a confident outfit as they battled to a 0-0 draw in difficult conditions. Whatever their issues, they will have to purge them from their systems before tackling the European champions.

Champions Spirit

Top of Group F, the battle is not yet won for Barcelona, who are not even assured their place in the last 16. When the draw was made, it was anticipated that Barca would have to fight off stubborn resistance from Inter to claim top spot in the pool, but the efforts of Rubin and Dynamo were not taken into account.

The Russians have proved a particular source of woe for coach Pep Guardiola, who saw his side shocked 2-1 at Camp Nou before being ground to a 0-0 draw in Tatarstan. Having also been frustrated by Inter earlier in the competition, much was riding on their home encounter against the Nerazzurri a fortnight ago.

As champions should, Barca responded with pomp, restricting their opponents to virtually nothing in the way of shots on target while simultaneously striking first half goals from Gerard Pique and Pedro to allow a depleted side to ease past the Italian champions with surprising comfort.

Guardiola continued to display his ability to get his team to perform at key moments when they met Real Madrid in El Clasico ten days ago. Barca were not at their drool-inducing best, but a simply sublime goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided the game in their favour.

Now top of the Primera Division again, the Blaugrana are looking to find more familiar territory in the form of the last 16 of the Champions League. It is by no means a formality for the Catalan giants, but they have to be considered strong favourites going into the midweek matches.

FORM GUIDE

Dynamo Kiev


WON 1-0 (a) Chornomorets Odesa (Premier League, December 5)

DREW 0-0 (a) Zaporizhya (Premier League, November 29)

DREW 0-0 (a) Rubin Kazan (Champions League, November 24)

WON 3-0 (h) Shakhtar Donetsk (Premier League, November 21)

LOST 2-1 (h) Inter (Champions League, November 4)

Barcelona


WON 3-1 (a) Deportivo La Coruna (La Liga, December 6)

WON 2-0 (a) Xerez (La Liga, December 2)

WON 1-0 (h) Real Madrid (La Liga, November 29)

WON 2-0 (h) Inter (Champions League, November 24)

DREW 1-1 (a) Athletic Bilbao (La Liga, November 21)

TEAM NEWS

Dynamo Kiev


There are only a few injury worries for Dynamo ahead of this encounter. Badr El Kaddouri and Yevgen Khacheridi are both missing due to physical problems, with the former having been sidelined since August due to an ankle issue.

Injury-prone defender Pape Diakhate is back playing with the reserves after sustaining a knee issue in mid-October.

Leandro Almeida returns from a one match ban and is free to feature.

Probable Starting XI:
Shovkovski; Eremenko, Khacheridi, Leandro Almeida, Gerson Magrao; Mikhalik, Vukojevic; Shevchenko, Ninkovic, Yarmolenko; Milevskiy

Barcelona


Guardiola has selected a squad of 20 players to travel to Kiev, though that pool includes the ineligible Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who is, of course, Ukrainian by origin.

Jeffren Suarez is the only player registered as an injury worry, while Carles Pujol is the only man flirting with suspension at present.

Defenders Rafael Marquez and Gabriel Milito are both involved after being omitted from the weekend’s squad entirely.

Probable Starting XI:
Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Keita, Busquets; Messi, Ibrahimovic, Iniesta

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Dynamo Kiev


Goals are needed for the Ukrainians, and Artem Milevskiy is a potential match-winner for them. The 24-year-old club captain has found the net regularly in domestic play but was quiet against Rubin Kazan in their previous Champions League fixture. He is a clever forward, capable of unlocking defences with a clever pass, but he is also a handy finisher. If he gets sniff, it must be taken.

Barcelona


Barca have players worth watching all over the field, but undoubtedly their outstanding talent is Lionel Messi. The Argentine recently picked up the Ballon d’Or award and promptly showcased just why as he gave a virtuoso display against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend. Capable of unlocking any defence, if he is in good form then Barca will be unstoppable.

PREDICTION


Though Dynamo have provided stern resistance in every Champions League match they have played this season, it is simply impossible to back against a side with the quality and experience of Barcelona. There can be little doubt that Pep Guardiola’s side are not the emphatic force that they were at times last season, but they surely have enough match-winning potential in their squad to ensure success against a team who will have to try to attack them at some stage.

Dynamo Kiev 0-2 Barcelona


Robin Bairner, Goal.com