Champs look for opening win against Kiev
Barcelona have a perfect five wins in the league but are yet to register their first victory in the UEFA Champions League going into Tuesday's Group F match against Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou.
Barcelona warmed up for the match with a 2-0 win over Malaga to maintain their 100 per cent start on the domestic front and the UEFA Champions League holders aim to kick-start their European campaign with three points against Kiev.
"We now have to recover for the Champions League game against Kiev," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "We know they are a team that puts pressure on you and is very physical and well organised."
Barcelona drew 0-0 with Inter Milan in their group opener while Kiev lead the group on three points after beating minnows Rubin Kazan 3-1. Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a revelation for Barcelona scoring in all five of their league matches and now he will aim to net his first UEFA Champions League goal in Spanish colours.
With his 195cm frame Ibrahimovic is a real aerial threat and he has provided Barcelona with an alternative plan to their slick passing game although the tall striker is also adept at receiving the ball to his feet. Ibrahimovic came on as a substitute against Malaga to open the scoring despite being a doubt for the game with a twisted ankle. "Ibrahimovic gives us a bit more of an aerial threat and we appreciate the effort he put in when he wasn't 100 per cent," said Guardiola.
Dani Alves also lauded the contribution of the €69 million signing from Inter Milan, declaring: "He is a key figure in this team and we can play a bit more direct if we need to. He can help us a lot with his goals and overall quality."
French striker Thierry Henry hobbled out of the Malaga win holding his groin leaving Ibrahimovic as the only fit out-and-out striker with Bojan Krkic also sidelined. Ukraine centre-back Dmitro Chygrynskiy was another injury setback for the defending champions facing a three week lay-off with knee ligament injury although he would have been cup-tied for the Kiev match in any case.
Barcelona actually lost their last UEFA Champions League match against Ukrainian opposition going down 3-2 at Camp Nou against Shakhtar Donetsk in last season's group stage although Guardiola fielded a number of youngsters having already secured qualification. Barcelona are likely to field a strong side against Kiev and Guardiola may inject some fresh legs with Spanish international midfielder Andres Iniesta and Mexican defender Rafael Marquez rested at the weekend.
Kiev are seasoned campaigners in the UEFA Champions League and have arguably Ukraine's most successful export on their books in Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko, now 32, is back at the club where he made his name before going on to huge success with AC Milan where he scored the decisive penalty in the 2003 UEFA Champions League final shoot-out win over Juventus.