What: Champions League – Round of 16
Who: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund
When: Wednesday 13th February, 2013 at 19:45 GMT
Where: Donbass Arena, Donetsk, Ukraine
Shakhtar Out of Hibernation as Champions League Resumes
Shakhtar Donetsk come into this first leg out of competitive match practise due to the three-month winter break Ukrainian teams have. Their last competitive game was a 1-0 home defeat to Juventus in the Champions League group stage which deprived them of top spot in their group.
Mircea Lucescu’s men have been doing their best to keep themselves in good competitive form, as well as growing their international profile, as they embarked on a trip to the Middle East, winning a tournament in Abu Dhabi before heading to La Manga in Spain where they won another friendly competition. Their most recent friendly was a 1-0 defeat to Odd Grenland of Norway.
The Ukrainians will have fond memories of the last time they met a German team, a 2-1 win over Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup final of 2009. They are in fact unbeaten in their last four games against German sides since they last met Borussia Dortmund, in the qualifying round of the 2001/02 tournament. Shakhtar Donetsk had also won 16 games in a row at home prior to the Juventus defeat in December. Their consistency was also underlined by the fact that they became the first team to win the first 15 games in a row in a Ukrainian league season earlier in the campaign.
Having been one of the most impressive teams during the first group stage hopes are high that ambitious Shakhtar Donetsk can go further in this year’s tournament. The loss of Willian to Anzhi Makhachkala last month was a blow, although they have picked up Taison from Metalist Kharkhiv. The Miners’ best previous run in the Champions League took them to the quarter-finals, but to get past this Dortmund team would be another hugely impressive achievement from Lucescu’s side.
Dortmund Look to Recover from Hamburg Humbling
Jurgen Klopp’s outfit had been on a five-game winning streak until the shock 4-1 home defeat to Hamburg at the weekend, which left any vague hopes Dortmund had of retaining their Bundesliga title in tatters. Attention now turns to the Champions League, with Dortmund keen to continue to make their mark on this year’s competition and progress further. They will play down their chances of winning the tournament, but having won the group of death ahead of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, the Germans cannot be underrated.
They are one of four teams still unbeaten in this year’s competition, although they have only won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. That statistic covers up the fact that the Ruhr side were the better team at both the Bernabeu and the Etihad Stadium this season, and having never lost to Ukrainian opposition, there are plenty of encouraging stats in Dortmund’s favour.
Like Shakhtar Donetsk, Dortmund have had the benefit of a long break, during which they also went to La Manga. They have however been struggling with injuries, with a number of players battling for fitness ahead of the weekend game with Hamburg, a contributing factor to their heavy defeat. Another could have been the future of Robert Lewandowski, increasingly being linked with a move to rivals Bayern Munich. Klopp will hope some good results in Europe can help quieten the rumours and keep the team’s form top of the agenda.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 CSKA Moscow (31/01; Copa do Sol)
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Widzew Lodz (02/02; Copa do Sol)
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-1 Odd Grenland (03/02; Friendly)
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Nurnberg (25/01; Bundesliga)
Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 Borussia Dortmund (03/02; Bundesliga)
Borussia Dortmund 1-4 Hamburg (09/02; Bundesliga)
Shakhtar Donetsk: Olexander Kucher
Borussia Dortmund: Kevin Grosskreutz; Ilkay Gundogan; Marcel Schmelzer; Neven Subotic
Players to watch
Shakhtar Donetsk – Luiz Adriano: Adriano was suspended for the last group game at home to Juventus after being punished by UEFA for taking advantage of a drop ball situation to score against Nordsjaellend. Prior to that, the Brazilian had scored three goals from his only three shots on target in the group stage. With Willian now departed, Adriano will take on an increased goalscoring burden for Lucescu and Dortmund will have to watch the lively forward’s runs.
Borussia Dortmund – Marco Reus: Reus has possibly been the star of Dortmund’s European adventure so far this season. He has scored in all their away games and his close control and quick feet are a real threat on the break. He is the type of player who draws defenders to him, helping create space for equally dangerous team-mates. And in a game likely to be won by quick counter-attacks, that makes Reus particularly important for the visitors.
This game will be overshadowed by the clash in Madrid between Real Madrid and Manchester United on the same night, but it is probably the second most interesting game in the Round of 16, and quite possibly the hardest to predict. Two equally impressive, attacking sides who like to press their opponents high up the pitch and dominate possession with slick interchanges and short passing movements, there will be numerous similarities on show.
It is difficult to tell which could prove more telling; Dortmund’s 4-1 home loss to Hamburg, their biggest reverse at the Westfalenstadion since 2008, or Shakhtar Donetsk’s lack of competitive match practise. These are two very fit sides either way and the home team’s attacking threat will come from the interplay between Fernandinho, Alex Teixeira and Henrikh Mkhitaryan behind Adriano. They will possibly look to make use of quick passes down the flanks to take advantage of Dortmund’s attacking full-backs. But the high octane pressing game Klopp uses could deprive Shakhtar Donetsk of some of their usual creativity in the middle, particularly with Mkhitaryan.
In Razvan Rat and Dario Srna the home team have two experienced full- backs and this game could well come down to which pair of full-backs are more adept at defending opposition counter-attacks. They will have a difficult time against Marco Reus and Mario Gotze, and it is hard to imagine Dortmund being unable to pierce the home team’s defence at least once. But the German side’s defensive issues could be exploited by the Brazilian connection up front for Shakhtar Donetsk, who have enough about them to take a slender lead to Dortmund. Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Borussia Dortmund.
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