Chelsea v Shakhtar Donetsk Preview
Stamford Bridge, London
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Shakhtar Donetsk are one of the form teams in Europe as they arrive in London for Wednesday’s Champions League showdown with Chelsea, who after a good start to the season of their own are on a bit of a bumpy run that has seen them win just one of their last four matches.
BREAKDOWN: Shakhtar have played 19 matches in all competitions this season, and their 1-1 draw at Juventus in a Group E encounter early last month is still their only blemish. They’ve won the two Ukrainian Cup matches they’ve played this autumn, and after three rounds of the Champions League group stage they sit atop the bracket with seven points—three more than second-place Chelsea.
It’s a run of results that has inspired no shortage of confidence in the side, and on Tuesday manager Mircea Lucescu was speaking openly about winning the next day’s match away to Chelsea.
“We have prepared well,” he told reporters in his pre-match press conference. “We are in good form, too. Our players are also thinking of this game as a very important match for us—for the three points...I prepare my players knowing very well that absolutely all teams can be beaten, even Chelsea at home.”
The Blues, for their part, are coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Swansea that was preceded by a 5-4 win over Manchester United in the league cup, a 3-2 loss to United in the league and that 2-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk at Donbass Arena two weeks ago.
Recognising his side aren’t playing their best football at the moment, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo admitted his team would have to play “a perfect game” at Stamford Bridge if they hoped to get something from streaking Shakhtar.
“We need to be at our best,” he said. “The way [Shakhtar] went to Turin and played their showed what type of confidence they have. But,” he added, “we are a very good team and I think we need to show that—put them under pressure and try to score the goals that we need to win the game.”
With seven goals already this season Juan Mata is Chelsea’s form attacker heading into Wednesday. The Spanish international was also awarded the Premier League Player of the Month gong for October.
ESSENTIALS: Ashley Cole is set to miss this match with a hamstring injury, and Frank Lampard is sidelined as well. John Terry will be expected to resume his place in the centre of defense (he has been serving a four-match domestic suspension) while Mata (hamstring) should be fit to start.
Shakhtar have no injury or suspension concerns coming into Wednesday’s match.
KEY BATTLE: A lot of big, European clubs have their eye on Willian, and the Shakhtar winger will once again be one of his side’s most important attackers when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Ryan Bertrand, who will replace Cole at left-back, will have to put in an all-world performance if he has any hope of containing the Brazilian on Wednesday.
FORMATIONS: Di Mattea will deploy a 4-2-3-1 with Fernando Torres up top and playmakers Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard in support. Lucescu will also go 4-2-3-1 and will have Luiz Adriano functioning as the lone striker with Alex Teixeira, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Willian just behind him.
BETLINE: Chelsea 19/20; Draw 5/2; Shakhtar Donetsk 3/1. Mkhitaryan is the Ukrainian Premier Leauge’s top goalscorer this season having found the back of the net on 14 occasions.