Shakhtar Donetsk are in Manchester tonight as they face an all too familiar opponent in the Champions League!
Manchester City’s Etihad stadium plays host to yet another meeting between the English and Ukrainian Champions. It’s likely that players from both sides will be hoping this is the last time they will meet for a while, with the last three consecutive seasons playing out this now regular fixture between the two clubs!
None more so than Shakhtar, who are likely fed up of being soundly beaten in 4 of the last 5 ties, including a rather unfortunate but equally devastating 6-0 thrashing at this evening’s venue just over a year ago!
This season’s UCL campaign began with The Miners welcoming City to Kharkiv, where a far from full strength Guardiola team rather comfortably dispatched the Ukrainians 3-0.
It was still early days under new manager Luis Castro in mid September and his first major test as manager brought him back down to earth with a thud. Improvements would be required if they were hopeful of making the knockout rounds.
A last minute win against Atalanta helped boost morale, whilst two draws against Dinamo Zagreb, mean that the Donetsk side need to better their Croatian counterparts’ final results if they’re to pip them into second.
Shakhtar have been far from perfect in this edition of Uefa’s premier competition, with valiant but rather fortunate ends to matches aiding them in their pursuit of a Last 16 place.
Talismanic attacking midfielder Marlos is suspended but elsewhere Castro has a full strength squad to choose from. Rather uncharacteristically, he started with a rather strong side in their last league game before this midweek action. In the four previous occasions, wholesale changes were made to ensure the players were fresh for the upcoming European tie.
The international break likely played a role in this decision.
Moraes broke his recent goal duct to record a hat trick as Shakhtar routed second bottom Lviv 4-1. The result can be hardly classified as an optimal warm up in terms of quality of opposition but a win is a win nonetheless.
Castro should go all out for this one, especially with expectations rather low. They are facing Pep’s Premier League Champions after all.
Expected line up:
This had the billing of an All Ukrainian showdown with Zinchenko in opposite ranks but unfortunately due to his recent knee injury and subsequent surgery, he is still a week or so off from returning to first team action.
Nonetheless, City need a point to guarantee top spot, something the majority are expecting them to achieve and go one further by getting a comfortable win.
Even without the injured Aguero (who was unlikely to start this game anyway) Jesus has wreaked havoc before and will be wanting to further his impressive record against the Donbas club.
Will the winless record of Ukrainian clubs in England continue or can Ukraine’s current top club side break with history and against the odds?