Braga vs Shakhtar – Thursday 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET at Estádio Municipal de Braga.
Shakhtar Donetsk have already clinched their spot in the round of 32, as the Ukrainians have won five out of five matches in the Europa League group phase this season.
In fact, Shakhtar seems to have made a big step forward under new coach Paulo Fonseca, as the Portuguese coach has been able to coax out the most from the talent already available to him, and also has brought in players from Shakhtar’s prolific youth academy to build a squad that could very well aim to win the Europa League this season.
Shakhtar have also been on form in the domestic Ukrainian Premier League, where they sit eight points ahead of rivals Dynamo Kyiv in first place.
Fonseca, who moved from Braga to Shakhtar in the summer, has been, in many ways, the signing of the Ukrainian Premier League this year, as the coach shows that he is tactically innovative and also adaptable to the harsh realities of Ukrainian football.
With the Europa League all but wrapped up, and with Shakhtar facing rivals Dynamo Kyiv on Monday, December 12 in the all-Ukrainian Derby, Fonseca could shuffle the deck for the final Europa League match, and give some irregular starters much needed playing time in order to rest his stars for the big match.
On the other hand, Fonseca has rotated his squad throughout the season, and may use the occasion in Braga, as a test for what is deemed the most important match in Ukrainian football.
Braga, in the meantime, is looking to advance themselves and, with six points, they are just one point ahead of KAA Gent, who are playing already eliminated Konyaspor.
Braga vs Shakhtar – Players to look out for:
Despite losing several key players in the last few years, Shakhtar continue to possess plenty of talent. Look out for the Brazilians Marlos and Taison, as the two wingers are dangerous on the counter attack. Bernard also continues to show, this season, why Shakhtar paid €25 million for him in the summer of 2013, as the Brazilian finally seems to have found his stride under Paulo Fonseca. Another Brazilian, who has surprised of late, is Dentinho, as he seems to have built a lethal partnership with the talented Ukrainian forward, Andriy Boryachuk.
Braga vs Shakhtar – Match Stats
- Braga are yet to win in seven encounters against Ukrainian clubs (D2 L5).
- Shakhtar have played Braga five times, and won every match.
- Shakhtar beat Braga 3-0 away and 2-0 at home in the 2010-11 Champions League group stage, and then eliminated Braga last season in the Europa League quarterfinal (2-1, and 4-0).
- Shakhtar also beat them 2-0 this season on matchday 2 of the Europa League.
- Shakhtar’s 17 match record against Portuguese teams looks like this: W7 D4 L6).
- Shakhtar, Zenit, and Schalke are the only sides who have won five out of five Europa League group stage matches.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Braga vs Shakhtar 1-3
Braga vs Shakhtar – Possible Lineups
Marafona – Marcelo Goiano, Pinto, Rosić, Baiano – Eduardo, Mauro, Xeka, Horta – Ruí Fonte – Ahmed Hassan
Manager: José Peseiro
Pyatov – Ismaily, Rakitsky, Kucher, Srna – Stepanenko, Fred – Taison, Kovalenko, Bernard – Boryachuk
Manager: Paulo Fonseca