Shakhtar Donetsk v Juventus Preview
Donbass Arena, Donetsk
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: This is truly the match to follow on Wednesday as its result will have all sorts of ramifications, not only for the two sides contesting it but for European Cup holders Chelsea as well.
BREAKDOWN: It’s really quite straightforward: a draw will take both Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus into the Champions League Round of 16.
That’s the result most pundits, whether skeptical or just realistic, are expecting to see on the Donbass Arena scoreboard after 90 minutes on Wednesday. And it’s a result that would consign Chelsea to the Europa League.
A Chelsea win coupled with a trip-up by Juventus in Ukraine, however, would see the Bianconeri drop into Europe’s second tier and Chelsea go into the December 20 draw.
“It’s an extraordinary situation,” exclaimed Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu in his Tuesday press conference. “Two big clubs like Chelsea and Juventus are depending on our result, since Shakhtar are top of the group. What could be better than this?”
Qualification to the tournament’s knockout phase, no doubt, but despite needing only a draw Lucescu vowed to go after all three points against the Scudetto winners on Wednesday.
“Regardless of our qualification status, football is football,” he said. “We’re professionals and we’ll take to the field with the desire to win.”
Juventus, for their part, won’t be wanting to risk progression and with that in mind assistant manager Angelo Alessio has said his side will attempt to pressure Shakhtar from the very beginning.
“We should concentrate from the start, stay focused and fight for every ball,” he said. “Our actions in the opening minutes will be very important.”
ESSENTIALS: Shakhtar will be without defenders Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Tomas Hubschman, both of whom are injured. Striker Luiz Adriano, meanwhile, is suspended after his unsportsmanlike play in Matchday Five and will make way for either Marko Devic or Eduardo.
Juventus are without the suspended Claudio Marchisio, and Giorgio Chiellini is still struggling with a calf injury. Martin Caceres could come in for him, and Paul Pogba will start in midfield. Winger Simone Pepe, striker Nicklas Bendtner and Lucio are each sidelined through injury.
This is the final match of manager Antonio Conte’s four-month ban. He’ll be back on the touchline when Juventus visit Palermo on Sunday.
KEY BATTLE: Willian scored twice against Nordsjaelland on Matchday Five and will line up slightly on the right of the attack. That should put him almost directly opposite Caceres, and Arturo Vidal will keep an eye on him when he cuts inside as well.
FORMATIONS: Lucescu will start a 4-2-3-1 formation with Eduaro up top and Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Teixeira tucked just in behind the Croatia international. Alessio will deploy a 3-5-2 formation with Stephan Lichsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah operating as wing-backs and Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco up top.
BETLINE: Shakhtar Donetsk 13/5; Draw 10/11; Juventus 3/1. These sides drew 1-1 in the reverse fixture on October 2.