Barcelona travelled to Kyiv for Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League. They locked horns against Dynamo Kyiv who are yet to taste victory in this UEFA Champions League edition. Barcelona won the game without breaking a sweat as they dismantled Dynamo 4-0 in their home.
With this victory, Barcelona ensured their place in the Round of 16, as Dynamo’s flickering hopes of qualification are now dead. Barcelona, quite surprisingly, have won all 4 of their UEFA Champions League group stage games given that they have struggled quite a lot in La Liga.
Dynamo entered this game on the back of an away victory against Inhulets’, whereas Barcelona came on the back of a humiliating loss to Atletico Madrid at home. Barcelona had not lost against Atletico at home for 20 years.
Barcelona had a lot of changes in their lineup compared to the one they lined up at the weekend. Oscar Mingueza came in place of Gerard Pique. Junior Firpo replaced Jordi Alba in the left-back position. And Sergino Dest came over as right back in place of Sergi Roberto.
Miralem Pjanic and Carles Alena in place of Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Fransico Trincao came in place of Ousmane Dembele. And Martin Braithwaite and Phillipe Coutinho replaced Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi. Barcelona went with their usual 4-2-3-1 and Dynamo instead of their preferred 4-2-3-1, went with a highly defensive 4-4-2. Dynamo have been exceedingly defensive in UEFA Champions League this whole season.
We can clearly see how intensely Kyiv were dominated. Barcelona mostly looked to build from the back. They started building from a 3-man-backline, which sometimes comprised of the 2 centre backs and 1 fullback or 2 centre backs and a midfielder.
Here we see the 3-man backline of Clement Lenglet, Junior Firpo, and Oscar Mingueza.
Here we see a 3-man backline of Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, Miralem Pjanic.
Moving forward, Barcelona played with a very systemic link between the wide players and the central players. They would pass the ball to the full-back, who would then release the pivots and the CAM. Whenever the central players were pressed by Dynamo players, they would stretch them up using the full-backs or Trincao and Pedri.
Here’s an example of that. Oscar Mingueza has the ball and is being pressed by Buyalski.
Trincao (in the blue circle) and Dest (in the black circle) drop deep to provide Mingueza with passing options. Since Dest is pressed very deep, Mingueza passes it to Trincao, who then finds Alena (in the red circle) and then he carries the attack forward.
This was how Barcelona constructed their attack throughout the game. This sort of gameplay was possible because of the stamina of the wingers and the fullbacks to constantly charge up and down the flank, and the composure of the central players to absorb Kyiv’s high-intensity man-to-man press.
Because of the centrality of Barcelona’s play, they were able to penetrate Zone 14 very effectively. This is why they created so many chances and controlled the majority of the ball.
In the final third Barcelona penetrated the half-spaces in between the Kyiv players by making their off the ball runs. This is one aspect Barcelona have severely lacked in this season. In every game that Barcelona have played, their wingers and fullbacks tend to take the ball forward in very dangerous areas but they would have no one pass to. No options inside the box to cross the ball to.
This lacklustre performance inside the box has hurt Barcelona a lot this season, but it was very well managed in last night’s game. All the players whenever they got a chance or space up front, would penetrate it. All 4 goals came that way only.
Below is an example. This is Barcelona’s first goal of the game scored by Sergino Dest.
Here Pedri (in the black circle) passes the ball to Braithwaite (in the orange circle). Both Dest and Braithwaite are looking to penetrate the half-spaces in between the Kyiv players to exploit the large empty space they have in front of the goal. Dest successfully runs into that space beating the offside trap and scores at the far post. Look at Trincao’s position (in blue circle) as well. He is just outside the box completely unmarked. This is how Barcelona’s wide men provided them with extra passing options.
Barcelona’s shape and Dynamo’s shapeless defense
There’s really isn’t much to talk about the defense of both the teams. There’s a similarity in basic strategy but a huge difference in the execution. Both the teams used high intense man-to-man pressing with a 4-man backline. Dynamo were so nervous against Barcelona’s attack that often they committed all 11 men in defense.
In doing so they left pockets of spaces that were penetrated really well by Barcelona.
Dynamo Kyiv’s man-marking was no match for Barcelona’s fast and fluid movements. They were rendered clueless tracking Barcelona.
Barcelona also initiated the same man-marking as Kyiv, but their players were very effective in it. Often they regained possession very quickly and the defence didn’t have much to do as they were never dangerously opened up. This is clearly seen in the attacking stats as Kyiv had only 3 shots on target and even those weren’t very dangerous.
Dynamo’s inefficiency with the ball was also one reason that Barcelona’s pressing came out as good as it did.
Dynamo Kyiv with the ball
Dynamo couldn’t really do anything significant with the ball. Moreover, they didn’t really have the ball much to do anything effective. Most of the time they either looked to counter or attack by the flanks.
The counter-attacks weren’t really working as they couldn’t even bypass Barcelona’s midfield who were amazingly organised. This also because the counter-attacks were due to panic of clearing the ball from a Barcelona bout of attack.
The attacks from the flanks were comparatively more organised than the counters, but even they weren’t anything fruitful. All Kyiv did was go sideways and then loop it from the top which were dealt with by Barcelona’s defence quite effectively. If it wasn’t dealt with, then the Kyiv forwards didn’t have significant channels to pass the ball to or shoot. If they did shoot, Marc Andre ter Stegen caught them quite easily.
All the cards came out perfectly well for Barcelona. It was a much-needed victory for them in terms of confidence. It was a very young squad with many big names missing. This A-star performance has raised a few eyeball grabbing questions for Barcelona. And those are, “Is it time for Barcelona to move away from their legends, including a certain Leo Messi?” A section of fans and experts are also questioning whether Messi’s presence hinders the mental confidence of Barcelona.
Nevertheless, this truly was a complete performance for Barcelona. Goals from Braithwaite and Griezmann would be very satisfying for them, as they have lacked the ice-cold finishing of a true no.9 in almost every game this season. Martin Braithwaite could be the missing piece of that jigsaw. The defence also fared out very well for them.
As for Dynamo Kyiv, their Champions League campaign is over, though they still have 2 games more to play and would look to ensure they get into Europa League and not get eliminated from a European adventure. The games would are coming very fast this season and both the teams would look to maintain their composure irrespective of the result.