Shakhtar vs Roma – Wednesday, February 21, 19:45GMT/20:45CET – OSK Metalist Stadion, Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Shakhtar Donetsk are finally back in action after a long winter break. With their first competitive match under the belt—the Miners hammered Chornomorets Odessa on the weekend winning the game 5-0—Shakhtar are now poised to host Roma in the Champions League. It is always an awkward stage for Ukrainian sides at this stage of the Champions League competition.
With no competitive football from mid-December to mid-February clubs from the post-Soviet space that make it to this stage of the competition often tend to struggle a bit. Last season Shakhtar fell at the round of 32 of the Europa League to Celta Vigo after dominating the group stage of the competition. Although it was a controversial penalty that ultimately cost the club the tie questions were still asked about the sort of preparations Shakhtar head coach Paulo Fonseca undertook during the winter break.
Now the question is whether he has drawn any conclusions from the round of 32 defeat against Celta. Most sites seem to suggest that Roma are the favourites to win this tie. If you think it is worth the bet, the pages on this online sportsbooks guide will be of good use. Also, taking into account the long winter break and the fact that Shakhtar will be a bit rusty, they might be right about Roma being the favourite. On the other hand, Shakhtar have demonstrated more than once under Paulo Fonseca that they can beat the odds and get results when it matters.
The Ukrainian club, which has finally found a permanent home in Kharkiv, finished second in a Champions League group that included Manchester City, Napoli and Feyenoord. Most bookies had Shakhtar finish third or perhaps even fourth. But the Ukrainian club played some fantastic football and after taking three points of both Manchester City and Napoli finished second in the group with 12-points.
The results against Napoli should be in particular encouraging for the Miners. After all, Napoli are currently the top dog in Serie A ahead of perpetual title-winning machine Juventus. Roma in the meantime sit in fourth place 16-points behind Napoli. With 90 goals I Giallorossi were the second highest scoring side in Serie A last season. But the departure of Mohamed Salah, who scored an unbelievable 15 goals and 13 assists last season, has left a big hole for Roma up front.
It could have been even worse for the club from the capital. Forward Edin Džeko, who scored 29 goals last season, had all but signed for Chelsea this winter. Only a last-minute stop to the transfer talks ensured that the Bosnian striker would be available for the Italians on Wednesday. Roma did, however, lose Emerson to Chelsea as the club needed an inflow of cash to meet UEFA’s rigid Financial Fair Play regulations. He is the latest player of a long list of players—that include Antonio Rüdiger and Leandro Paredes—to leave the club in recent months.
In their stead, Roma have signed several interesting names including the young Turkish forward Cengiz Ünder. But the turnover has been a problem for the club during the league campaign as they no longer showed the stability necessary to compete for the title. In the Champions League Roma have done well, however, finishing first in a group that included Chelsea and Atlético Madrid. But in Shakhtar, they now face a team and a coach that know how to exploit weaknesses.
Shakhtar head coach, who has been linked with a move to Bayern München, is without a doubt one of the most talented coaches in Europe at the moment. On matchday 6 he managed to outfox no other than Pep Guardiola, and if he has taken the right lessons from last season’s winter break, he is more than capable of outfoxing Roma’s head coach Eusebio Di Francesco to lay the foundation for Shakhtar to get to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Shakhtar vs Roma – Player to look out for:
Fred #8 – Shakhtar Donetsk
Fred has been one of the most significant discoveries of this season’s UEFA Champions League campaign. The Brazilian midfielder is a Claude Makélélé type of midfielder. Rigid in his defensive work and dynamic when going forward the Brazilian will be crucial for Shakhtar in the tie against Roma. His performances in the Champions League have already earned him plenty of accolades, and it now appears that his games against Manchester City, in particular, have earned him a move to Pep Guardiola’s side that will be completed next summer.
Edin Džeko #9 – Roma
Edin Džeko is a goalscoring machine. Last season the Bosnian forward managed an unbelievable 29 goals and 12 assists in 27 Serie A games. The departure of Mo Salah, however, has hurt the tall and elegant forward. Without him, his goalscoring rate has dropped to 11 goals in 24 games. That said Džeko is still Roma’s most productive player and Chelsea were more than willing to bring the forward in this winter making him part of the Emerson package that would have seen Roma receive €50 million plus €10 million in bonuses for both players. In the end, Roma were able to hang on to Džeko, which is good news for the Italian side as they need the Bosnian at his best to stand a fighting chance against a robust Ukrainian team.
Shakhtar vs Roma – Match Stats
- Shakhtar have lost two of their three last-16 ties – the sole exception their first appearance, a 6-2 aggregate win against Roma in the spring of 2011.
- Shakhtar recorded a comfortable victory against Roma when the teams met at this stage of the 2010-11 competition.
- Since that 2011 win against Roma, Shakhtar have lost on both their last-16 appearances: against Borussia Dortmund in 2012/13 (2-2 home, 0-3 away), FC Bayern München in 2014-15 (0-0 home, 0-7 away). The second-leg loss to Bayern is their heaviest European defeat.
- The Ukrainian side are therefore unbeaten in their three-home round of 16 games in the UEFA Champions League (W1 D2).
- The Donetsk side won all three of their home fixtures in Group G this season, beating SSC Napoli 2-1 on matchday one and Feyenoord 3-1. Last time out they became the first side to beat section winners Manchester City FC this season, recording a 2-1 victory.
- Shakhtar’s record at home to Italian clubs is W4 D0 L6.
- Roma’s round of 16 record is W2 L3. They beat Olympique Lyonnais (2006-07) and Real Madrid CF (2007-08) in their first two appearances but have since lost to Arsenal FC (2008-09), Shakhtar (2010-11) and Madrid (2015-16).
- The Giallorossi have visited Ukraine on only two other occasions, both to face FC Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Champions League group stage. The went down 2-0 in November 2004 (0-3 home) but won 4-1 in Kyiv three years later (2-0 home).
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Shakhtar vs Roma – 2-0
Shakhtar vs Roma – Possible Lineups
Pyatov – Ismaily, Rakitsky, Khocholava, Dodô – Stepanenko, Kovalenko – Bernard, Taison, Marlos – Ferreyra
Coach: Paulo Fonseca
Alisson – Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov – Strootman, Pellegrini – Ünder, Nainggolan, Perotti – Dzeko
Coach: Eusebio Di Francesco
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds 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. Or contact him via email: [email protected]