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There was a whole new spirit to FC Barcelona for the first match back after the international break, an impressive comeback to win 3-1 against Valencia on Sunday. The lifting of crowd restrictions at Camp Nou surely helped the cause, and now it’s time to do the same thing again in the Champions League, which hasn’t got off to the best of starts for the Catalans.
3-0 defeats in the first two games, at home to Bayern Munich and away to Benfica, mean that Barça can’t afford any more slips in their four remaining games to avoid being absent from the last 16 stage for the first time since 2004.
This is the first of two back-to-back fixtures against the also winless Dynamo Kyiv, and there is only really one option – win them both.
Last time we met
Barça and Dynamo are meeting for the second time in a row. Last season, Barça won 2-1 at Camp Nou and the 4-0 in the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv.
Ronald Koeman named the same set of players as the one that beat Valencia 3-1 at the weekend, other than the absence of the suspended Eric Garcia, who was sent off against Benfica.
The injured Ronald Araujo, Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite and Pedri also miss out.
Benfica v Bayern
The other game in Group E kicks off at 9.00pm CEST and it could have a huge bearing on Barça’s future too. If the Germans win that, then it becomes extremely unlikely that Barça would be able to catch them even if they collect the maximum 12 points from their remaining games.
But that might be the best result for Barça, for as things stand they are probably looking more at qualifying in second place rather than topping the group, so the fewer points Benfica collect the better.
Did you know?
Barça’s heaviest home defeat in the this tournament was 4-0 to Dynamo in 1997, but that was the Ukrainians’ only victory at Camp Nou in six attempts.
After losing just three of their previous 74 Champions League games at home, Barça have now lost three in a row (Juventus, PSG and Bayern), their worst ever run at Camp Nou in European competitions. Meanwhile, Dynamo have lost their last three away games.
Barça have only gone three games without scoring in Europe once before, in 1988. To avoid that happening again, they’ll need a big improvement on just one shot on target in their first two fixtures.
Barça will be looking to Ansu Fati to help make that happen. In just two previous Champions League games at Camp Nou, the teenager scored one goal and gave two assists (curiously, his last UCL outing was against Dynamo too). After scoring a fabulous goal against Valencia on Sunday, he clearly hasn’t lost an ounce of his brilliance.
Ronald Koeman says
Champions League: "The big teams have got a lot better and Barça have dropped off. There are teams with more balanced squads of 23 internationals and that have better finances … You can’t demand that we win the Champions League when you look at the other teams out there.”
Clásico: “I’m not thinking about it. The first game is the only one that matters to me but there’s no way Ansu Fati can play three games in a week.”
Form: “We played a great first half the other day but dropped off in the second. We have to be more aggressive off the ball.”
Dynamo: “We are missing Eric Garcia, but the team knows that they have every chance of winning this game. But we must win this to have any chance of going into the next round. Dynamo are better than last year. We know our Champions League future is at stake.”
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