Barca keep UCL hopes alive
Barcelona took on Dynamo Kiev knowing it was a must-win match after opening with defeats against Bayern Munich and Benfica and duly took all three points against the Ukrainian champions.
It was hardly a convincing showing by Ronald Koeman’s side against a Dynamo Kiev team who offered very little indeed going forwards. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had virtually nothing to do in the Barca goal such was the visitors’ lack of ambition.
The Catalans could, and really should, have won by more than just Gerard Pique’s strike but the win still keeps Barca alive at the halfway stage.
Another victory in Ukraine would put Barca in second place and in good shape to qualify, providing Benfica don’t shock Bayern at the Allianz Arena which seems unlikely given the German giants ran out 4-0 winners in Portugal on Wednesday.
Pique shows up Luuk de Jong
The only goal of the game came from the boot of Pique who showed Luuk de Jong how to finish and promptly etched his name into the Champions League history books with his 16th goal of the competition.
Most goals by defenders in the Champions League:— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 20, 2021
1⃣6⃣ Gerard Piqué
1⃣6⃣ Roberto Carlos
1⃣5⃣ Sergio Ramos
1⃣5⃣ Iván Helguera
1⃣2⃣ Dani Alves#UCL pic.twitter.com/TobChipqQo
Barca really shouldn’t be relying on a 34-year-old center-back to deliver the goods against Dynamo Kiev but Pique certainly seems to be a better finisher than the Dutch striker who was brought in on loan on deadline day.
It was a puzzling move then and it looks no better now. When De Jong plays Barca seem content to simply hurl crosses into the box aimed in the general direction of the striker and hope he might be able to do something.
So far he has struggled to even impress aerially. The man who Koeman famously said was “more dangerous than Neymar” when a cross is coming in missed a glorious headed chance in the first half and no one was sad to see him go off at half-time.
Barca captains get the job done
Barca have now won all 14 Champions League matches that Pique has socred in, according to Opta, but the defender wasn’t the only Barca captain who helped get the job done on Wednesday night.
Jordi Alba grabbed the assist for Pique’s goal and also created all sorts of chances for the hosts from left-back in the first half. The defender bemoaned his side’s inability to convert the chances after the game.
“In the first half we should have scored more than once,” he said. “In the second, without them creating much danger or chances, we didn’t play well. We need to put opponents away, maintain the same intensity throughout. That’s achieved through work and doing things well.”
| Jordi Alba vs Dynamo Kiev.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) October 20, 2021
• 1 Assist.
• 114 Touches.
• 79/90 Passes.
• 3/4 Accurate Long Balls.
• 5 Crosses.
• 4 Chances Created.
• 3 Key Passes.
• 1 Clearance.
• 1 Tackle.
• 8 Ball Recoveries.
Great Performance! pic.twitter.com/ZP63DYlJ8E
Sergio Busquets was also one of the few Barca players who stood out during the 90 minutes. Koeman had called on his experienced stars to “set the example to the youngsters” in his pre-match press conference and the older heads showed the way.
What now for Clement Lenglet?
There was also a rare appearance for Clement Lenglet against Dynamo Kiev. The Frenchman had managed just five minutes of action since August for Barca but made his second start alongside Pique in central defense.
Of course Lenglet only really played because Ronald Araujo is injured and Eric Garcia suspended but enjoyed a solid 90 minutes, thanks largely to Dynamo Kiev’s severely limited approach at the Camp Nou.
The clean sheet will help Lenglet’s cause and he’ll be wondering if there’s a chance he can continue against Real Madrid or if he’s heading back to the bench. Araujo is still out and Eric Garcia will be expected to return but the Spain international has also struggled to convince since his move.
Koeman will have to get his backline right if Barca are to have any chance. Real Madrid are far and away the topscorers in La Liga (with 22 goals from 8 games) and have both Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior in great form.
Can Barca go on and win El Clasico?
The victory over Dynamo Kiev followed on from Sunday’s victory over Valencia and means Barcelona are, results-wise at least, in good shape heading into the third fixture of what is a crucial week for the Catalan giants.
The results may boost confidence but there’s no doubt that Barca are still struggling under Koeman. The Dutchman is yet to win a Clasico as Barca coach and there are huge doubts over whether he’ll be able to turn it around on Sunday.
The Dutchman made three changes to his team against Dynamo Kiev but they really didn’t pay off. More changes arrived at the break with Sergino Dest surprisingly moving back to right-back, while Philippe Coutinho came on and did nothing to suggest he deserves to start any time soon.
Ansu Fati was also handed another 45 minutes and should have made it 2-0 but seemed to get carried away by trying to score an overhead kick when he really ought to have passed to a better placed teammate.
The 18-year-old will surely start against Real Madrid and offers some hope that Barca can get something out of El Clasico, but to do so they will need to play a lot better than they did against Kiev.