Barca banking on indispensable Ibrahimovic

MADRID - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has settled quickly at Barcelona and his continuing fitness will be vital as Pep Guardiola's team seek to defend their European title.

Barca host Dynamo Kiev in Champions League Group F on Tuesday with striker Thierry Henry doubtful due to a thigh strain, and Bojan Krkic injured, leaving Ibrahimovic as the only fit centre forward.

The Swede, signed from Inter Milan, started on the bench against Malaga in La Liga on Saturday to recover from an ankle strain.

But he was forced to come on for Henry in the first half and immediately lifted Barca's game, scoring the opener in a bruising 2-0 victory. He has now scored five in five league games.

"He (Ibrahimovic) wasn't 100 percent but he's a strong player who doesn't complain if he's thrown on," Guardiola said.

"More important than the goals he scores are the various alternatives he gives us in attack."


Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi are in a rich vein of form and Saturday's victory was Barca's fifth in row in La Liga this season.

But it was not as easy as the scoreline suggests and the depth of Guardiola's squad remains debatable.

"We'll have to see how we recover before the Dynamo Kiev game after so much effort and sacrifice," Guardiola added.

"If one player cannot be replaced by another we'll turn to the youth team."

The European champions drew 0-0 at Inter in their opening group match and Dynamo took top spot with a 3-1 comeback win over Russian champions Rubin Kazan.

Dynamo also lead the Ukrainian league and warmed up for the trip to Barcelona with a 2-0 victory over Zarja Lugansk. They are unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions.

Midfielder Olexander Aliyev played against Lugansk after two months out with injury.

Barca will be favourites to win but the last time Dynamo visited the Nou Camp, in a Champions League stage match in 1997, Andriy Shevchenko scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory and the former European Footballer of the Year is now back at Kiev.

Probable teams:

Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Daniel Alves, 5-Carles Puyol, 3-Gerard Pique, 19-Maxwell; 6-Xavi, 16-Sergio Busquets, 15-Seydou Keita; 10-Lionel Messi, 9-Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 17-Pedro.

Dynamo Kiev: Dynamo Kiev: 1-Olexandr Shovkovskiy; 11-Roman Eremenko, 34-Yevgen Khacheridi, 44-Leandro Almeida, 21-Gerson Magrao; 25-Ayila Yussuf, 5-Ognjen Vukojevic; 7-Andriy Shevchenko, 36-Milos Ninkovic, 70-Andriy Yarmolenko; 10-Artem Milevskiy.

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED)