Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli – Wednesday 13 September 19:45 BT/20:45 CET – Metalist Oblast Sports Complex, Kharkiv, Ukraine.
After a year’s absence, Shakhtar Donetsk are back in the UEFA Champions League. Ukraine’s most successful club of the last decade regained the Ukrainian Premier League title from Dynamo Kyiv last season and qualified directly for the group stage of the Champions League. Shakhtar were by far the most dominant team in the Ukrainian Premier League last season collecting 14 more points than their biggest rivals Dynamo Kyiv.
A significant achievement given that Shakhtar remain in exile from Donetsk, which is still significantly affected by the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists. Since being forced into exile, the club played the first two seasons at the Arena Lviv but was cleared by UEFA to move to Kharkiv instead. Like Donetsk, Kharkiv is located in the Russian speaking dominated east of the country and the recent bankruptcy of the local club Metalist has meant that many Kharkivians have welcomed Shakhtar’s arrival with open arms.
As a result, the Metalist Stadium should provide a fitting backdrop for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Napoli. Shakhtar go into the game in good form having beaten Zorya Luhansk 3-1 on the weekend and being once again at the top of the table in Ukraine.
Napoli in the meantime have won their first three games of the still young Serie A season. The South Italians have put together a formidable side over the last few years and look like the biggest challenger to Juventus Turin’s dominance over Italian football. On paper, Napoli will, therefore, be the favourites, but Shakhtar have plenty of European experience and have always done well in the group stage of UEFA tournaments. It would therefore not be a major surprise should the Ukrainians manage to take at least a point from this game.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli – Players to Watch Out For
Bernard #10 – Shakhtar Donetsk
The Brazilian Bernard is Shakhtar Donetsk’s biggest star. Signed in 2013 from Atlético Mineiro Bernard finally fulfilled some of his early promises. Deemed one of the most exciting playmakers in world football Shakhtar signed the Brazilian wunderkind for €25 million to replace Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Brazilian, however, never fully fulfilled his potential in his first season and was one of the biggest disappointments during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in his native Brazil. It took Bernard almost two full years to recover from that tournament. Since Fonseca has taken over Bernard has blossomed for Shakhtar playing a significant role in Shakhtar’s return to the top of Ukrainian football last season.
Marek Hamsik #17 – Napoli
These days Marek Hamsik is on the verge of making history for Napoli. His 66 games for Napoli already make him the club’s record player in international competitions. In the Serie A Hamsik has scored 113 goals just two less than the legendary Diego Maradona. It is therefore only a question of time until Hamsik will surpass Napoli’s most famous son. Asked about the record Hamsik said: “I hope so. Diego Maradona is a God here in Napoli. It would, therefore, be fantastic to have my name ahead of him. To see the name Hamsik ahead of Maradona that would be fantastic. But I can’t compare myself with him.” To do that Hamsik would need to guide Napoli to some silverware. This season has started promising for the South Italians, who have won their first three games of the season. Hamsik in the meantime is the club’s most outstanding player and the key to success or failure of the light blues.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli – Match Stats
- FC Shakhtar Donetsk and SSC Napoli have never met, but both have plenty of UEFA Champions League pedigree as they kick off Group F.
- This is Shakhtar’s seventh group stage campaign in eight seasons and their 12th overall since 2000. They have progressed to the last 16 on three occasions: 2010-11 (when they reached the quarter-finals), 2012-13 and 2014-15.
- Shakhtar will play their UEFA Champions League home games in Kharkiv this season, due to the political situation in Ukraine. They have won only three of their last 11 home fixtures in the competition.
- Shakhtar’s last home game against Italian opposition was a 1-0 matchday six defeat to Juventus on 5 December 2012.
- Shakhtar’s home record against Serie A clubs is W3 D0 L3; overall it is W4 D2 L12.
- Napoli are in the group stage for the second year in a row. Last season Napoli lost to eventual champions Real Madrid CF in the round of 16.
- Twelve months ago Napoli were also in Ukraine, visiting FC Dynamo Kyiv on matchday one. Arkadiusz Milik scored both goals in a 2-1 victory in a game played on 13 September 2016—exactly a year before this fixture.
- That was Napoli’s first win in Ukraine, after a 3-1 loss to FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League group stage and a 1-0 defeat away to the same opponents in the semi-final of the same competition two years later.
- Napoli drew 0-0 at home to Dynamo in last season’s group stage. Their overall record against Ukrainian clubs is W2 D2 L2.
Futbolgrad Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli 2-2
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Napoli – Possible Starting Lineups
Pyatov – Ismaily, Ordets, Kryvtsov, Srna – Alan Patrick, Fred – Taison, Bernard, Marlos – Ferreyra
Manager: Paulo Fonseca
Reina – Ghouam, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Hysaj – Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik – Insigne, Milik, Callejón
Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.