Champions League MD 02 Preview: FC Bayern vs. Dynamo Kyiv

Justin Separator September 29, 2021

The first matchday went perfectly for the German record champions. Not only the 3-0 win against FC Barcelona was a reason to cheer for the Bavarians, but also Dynamo Kyiv’s 0-0 draw against Benfica, putting the side from Munich in an excellent position before the second matchday in the group stages. An early group win and the opportunity for cantering through the last two games in cruise control mode beckons.

They probably will not be thinking about that at Säbener Straße yet, as it would be fatal to underestimate the upcoming opponents. But to be able to increase the lead on third place to at least four points already on the second matchday is no doubt a luring prospect.

A win against Dynamo Kyiv is a must. The Ukrainians are in first place in the national league after nine games, and they are still unbeaten in this competition. Eight wins, one draw and an impressive 25:2 goal difference are sure to give them a very broad chest before the toughest task of the season so far. Coach Mircea Lucescu will nevertheless rely above all on his strong defence. And so it could be a game for FC Bayern in which they have to patiently carve open the Ukrainians’ very tight spaces.

Dynamo Kyiv: emphasising defensive stability

On the first matchday of the Champions League, Kyiv hosted Benfica, the team with the most goals in the Portuguese league. Benfica are also ranked first in the league and have won all seven games with a total of 19:4 goals. However, the fact that they remained both without goals and a win in the Ukraine was no coincidence. On the contrary, the home team almost scored the winning goal shortly before the end – if it had not been for an offside position in the build-up.

Accordingly, it remained a goalless draw. Kyiv defended their goal passionately and with high aggressiveness in most phases of the game. Benfica rarely found ways to break down the bulwark. Although they had 65% possession, they only had 12 shots with 1.4 expected goals. On a good day, that might have been enough for a narrow victory, but in this case they had to accept a draw.

However, FC Bayern should by no means expect a team that parks the bus before their penalty area for 90 minutes. Kyiv are used to having to make the game themselves in the Ukrainian league where they usually press higher than in the Champions League. But if they keep their basic shape from the Benfica game, there should be moments when they push a little further out and try to disrupt Bayern’s build-up play.

Pressing under the microscope

But that will not be the rule. Against Benfica, they were quite compact most of the time in a 4-5-1 formation, which varied according to need and the situation. When defending from a deep position, they tended to operate in a 4-5-1. When they changed to a more advanced midf block, Shapparenko and Buyalskyi became more aggressive in the centre, creating a 4-1-4-1, sometimes a 4-4-1-1. In higher midfield pressing, with tendencies towards aggressive forechecking, the wide midfield players tucked in centrally to close down Benfica’s three-man backline, making it more of a 4-3-3 or even 4-1-2-3.

This flexibility allowed Kyiv to constantly challenge and sometimes even surprise their opponents. When pushing out, clear pressing triggers could be identified, moments when the team acted more aggressively as a collective:

  • Benfica built up through one of the two wing-backs: Kyiv shifted heavily to the wing near the ball and charged down aggressively at the player on the ball
  • Benfica built up through a very wide half-back: Kyiv’s wing-back near the ball attacked aggressively, the wing-back followed suit. But mostly only when the Ukrainians had already moved up a bit.
  • Benfica built up through the holding midfielder: The two eights Shaparenko and Buyalskyi attacked aggressively.

Bayern will therefore have to deal with a compact and, in many phases, deep-lying team, but by no means with one that passively surrenders to its fate. At times, they were able to build up high pressure in the centre of midfield against Benfica, which in turn led to promising ball wins. However, the offensive transition situations were played too imprecisely to create serious danger.

Too many invitations for the opponent

On the one hand, high aggressiveness means putting the opponent under sustained pressure. But it also brings with it the need to act in a tactically disciplined manner so as not to open up spaces between the lines. As often as the pressing served its purpose against Benfica, however, there were always moments when the side from Portugal got too much space between the lines.

On the flanks, Benfica solved it very cleverly in two or three situations by luring Kyiv into pressing and then finding ways behind the opposing full-back. However, due to the central players not keeping up reliably, this did not result in any chances worth mentioning.

In addition, Benfica did not make many mistakes in build-up play, which meant that the Ukrainians’ pressing repeatedly came to nothing. Especially when the two eights moved out, the six-man Sydorchuk had to defend a lot of space, which the 30-year-old captain did not always manage. Moreover, when the ball was on the outside and Kyiv wanted to tighten the space, the visitors too often managed to break free and, for example, shift the play across via a player in the centre.

The Ukrainians have their weaknesses in decision-making without the ball, which is why they cannot always maintain their defensive order, which is otherwise difficult to break down. In principle, Benfica, even though they were not able to do it consistently enough, they still managed to draw players out of their positions with counter-attacking movements every now and then. This is where FC Bayern must attack.


  • Defensive work
  • Aggressiveness
  • Variation in pressing
  • Transition after winning the ball
  • Technical quality of some individual players – for example Shaparenko
  • Many young and talented footballers who can surprise at any time


  • Tactical discipline
  • Decision-making in who is tracking whom
  • Individual quality not enough at this level
  • Prone to mistakes in build-up play
  • Gaps behind the first pressing line during times of higher pressing
  • Vulnerable on the flanks

Typical style of play

  • Clear distinction between league (more offensive, higher in pressing) and Champions League (more defensive) – here: Focus on style of play against Benfica
  • 4-5-1 variations without possession
  • Keep the centre compact, press aggressively on the wings
  • Make spaces very tight near the ball
  • Defend with high aggression – push forward rather than wait and see
  • After winning the ball, do not try to maintain possession; instead play fast and vertically if possible
  • Shaparenko as the most important point of contact in the centre when winning the ball on the wing

Tactical options for Bayern

With their dynamic play going forward, Dynamo will be able to create some spaces. Bayern’s shape in build-up play should be orderly enough to entice Kyiv and then play over them. Example:

Against two or three pressing opponents, the Bayern team usually operates in a compact 3-2 formation. Nagelsmann prefers a 2-3 formation, but when opposing teams press high, numerical superiority or at least equality are more important. Against Kyiv it could look like this:

If Upamecano now gives the ball to Hernández, Kyiv may push up a little. Pavard could possibly encourage this sequence by pushing up into midfield. Bayern have already done this a few times this season. Upamecano, meanwhile, makes himself available for a direct backpass from Hernández and may perhaps draw his opponent out further.

As Kyiv shift to the side near the ball, Pavard and Müller anticipate the situation and get into position for what follows: A back pass to Upamecano, who passes the ball on to Gnabry as quickly as possible. Because Pavard has squeezed the opponent in midfield, a significant plot of space opens up on the right side.

Ideally, Bayern now have created a situation in which Pavard has been able to extricate himself from cover and is available for a return pass while the attackers have taken up position in the spaces in between the lines.

Gnabry now has several options:

Release Müller on a deep run, followed by a run himself past his opponent so that he is available for a back pass between the lines.

Pass the ball to Pavard, who in turn releases Müller or Gnabry on a deep run.

Take on the opponent one-on-one yourself.

When there are a lot of players in lots of spaces, it always means that the opponent has to make a decision. The more often this is the case and with the more spaces at the same time, the higher the probability that a defender will make a decisive mistake because he opens up a dangerous space through his action. That Kyiv is susceptible to this despite their often stable defensive performances was shown on occasion against Benfica and in their only defeat of the season a few days ago against Donetsk (0- 3 in the Supercup).

Player to watch: Mykola Shaparenko

It is always interesting to take a look at talented players who might soon have a future in Europe’s top 5 leagues, especially in the case of teams that are rather unknown in Germany. Dynamo Kyiv have several of them. Viktor Tsygankov (23) has already scored eight goals in eleven games as a right-winger and 22-year-old left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko is also a face of the young Ukrainian generation with his dynamic forward play.

Here, however, the focus is going to be on Mykola Shaparenko. The 22-year-old midfielder was even linked with FC Bayern in 2018. At the time, Ukrainian media said that he was on a watch list of the record champions. It never became more concrete than that. Since then, he has developed further at Kyiv and has become an important first team player who has also made an impression on the Ukrainian national team. At the European Championship, he was in the starting eleven in four of the five games.

Shaparenko is a complete type of player because he brings important qualities to his team’s game both with and without the ball. He is one of the most ball-secure players on the team and almost always gets a pass rate above 85% – but he doesn’t just play safety passes. He is the lynchpin of his team when it comes to breaking down opposing pressing lines.

At the same time, he possesses a natural drive to go forward and thus always gets involved in his team’s offensive game. One skill for which he is particularly appreciated in Ukraine, however, is his tackling ability. Shaparenko is an aggressive dueller. Although he has already collected five yellow cards in eight competitive matches for occasionally being a touch too late, he is not known as an unfair player. His closing down play is usually clever and important to compensate for his teammates’ weaknesses in positional play. At only 22 years old, he is already one of the cornerstones in the Kyiv team. And in the future, he will probably perform at a different level – even if not necessarily at FC Bayern.

Can Dynamo prevent a Bayern dream start?

There is no need to discuss who will be the favourites in this match. However, it will be exciting to see how much Kyiv will be able to do in the Allianz Arena and how the record champions of the German Bundesliga will deal with it when two or three Ukrainians suddenly appear in front of the deepest build-up players.

There will be opportunities above all down the flanks, if Bayern are clever about it. If they manage to occupy the spaces in between as dynamically and methodically as they did against Barcelona, there will be little standing between them and a win.

But before Bayern can think about celebrating a dream start to the new Champions League season, Kyiv must first be defeated. This can be a major challenge, especially if the opponents are invited to play as much as they were recently in the games against Fürth or Leipzig.

Kick-off: Wednesday evening at 9pm CEST.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Justin, have you been secretly working for Nagelsmann as opponent scout now? The matches preview has been becoming more and more detailed tactically, I pretty much appreciate it, and thoroughly enjoy it. Kiev is an unknown opponent to me, so the scouting info is very useful.

    As the line-up was just rolled out a few minutes ago, it could play out exactly as you explained, with Sule playing the Pavard role. I look forward to see how the hybrid back 3-back 4 will work today, and how the team could improve as compared to last match in terms of precision and (reducing) mistakes.

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