Preview – Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk

Champions League is back and we host Shakhtar Donetsk Wednesday night at 20:45.  Look, out of the possibilities we could have drawn a few weeks in Nyon, this was easily one of the better ones.  Personally, beside Schalke, they were my next choice.  However, this is no game to take lightly, and Pep and the team, also Cruyff, realize this.  Shakhtar have shown they are no pushovers thus far, winning their group over Arsenal and then very deservingly taking out Roma.  Their record in the Champions League has been pretty excellent this term, winning 7 of their 8 games.  The one loss they had was a 5-1 spanking against Arsenal in London.  However in the 7 wins they scored 17 goals and only conceded 3.  That’s pretty excellent.

I’ll do a little run down of Shakhtar.  They’ve been a pretty consistent force in Europe the last years, even winning the UEFA Cup in the same year we won the Champions League (we then beat them 1-0 in the Super Cup thanks to a Pedro goal, but we were by no means convincing in that game and they defended very well).  They actually are a rather wealthy club (newly) and have one of the best stadiums in Europe that UEFA donned with a 5 star rating.  I think it’s pretty safe to say the success of this team has really blossomed with the influx of cash and the influx of foreigners, particularly, Brazilians.  If you look at their top 5 goalscorers in the Champions League, all 5 are Brazilians.  Leading the charts is Eduardo, the former Arsenal man.  He really looked a rather good player at the Emirates, in particular he was a clinical finisher.  But after that gruesome leg-break he was never the same and Arsenal eventually decided to eventually let him go.   Then there is also Luiz Adriano, Douglas Costa, Jadson, and Willan with 4, 2, 2, and 2 goals respectively.  Beside this quintuplet of Brazilians, there is a familiar face in Dmytro Chygrynskiy.  Look, he may have come good but really in his first season I felt he was rather awful.  His pace was shocking and frankly, that doesn’t develop with age or is something you can blame on a new league.  Sure he could spray the ball around quite well but not better than Pique.  I was very happy we sold him.  There is also Darijo Srna, the Croatian captain, who a few years back had links to ourselves, Chelsea, and a few others.  He is can play both defense and midfield as well as both the left and right side.  He is also handy with freekicks.

This is the full list that has travelled courtesy of the Shakhtar website:

Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov, Artem Tetenko, Rustam Khudzhamov;
Defenders: Mykola Ischenko, Sergiy Kryvtsov, Olexandr Kucher, Yaroslav Rakytskyy, Razvan Rat, Dmytro Chygrynskyy, Olexandr Chyzhov, Vyacheslav Shevchuk;
Midfielders: Willian, Vitaliy Vytsenets, Olexiy Gai, Jadson, Vasyl Kobin, Douglas Costa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Taras Stepanenko, Darijo Srna, Alex Teixeira, Fernandinho, Tomas Hubschman;
Strikers: Adriano, Eduardo.

It is only Monday night so the team news is definitely not confirmed and I will update with comments in the days to come.  But, we should basically be at full strength aside from obviously Abidal.  And well, Puyol.  Nic mentioned over the weekend he read somewhere our captain aims to return against Almeria Saturday, but who knows, he could very well start tomorrow.  Other than that, Pedro and Maxwell have both trained today and look essentially fit.  Now who will be the starting 11 we will have to see come Wednesday night.  Clearly Valdes, Alves, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, and Villa will start.  That leaves the left back role to either Adriano or Maxwell, and then there is the issue at center back but I’m pretty sure he will go with Busquets back and Mascherano in the midfield.  Otherwise, depending on Pedro’s fitness we could see Keita in, Iniesta pushed forward, or maybe a slight surprise with Afellay or Bojan.

I think Pep is going to have to speculate on Shakthar’s tactics and lineup accordingly.  The truth is Donetsk isn’t a defensive team at the moment as I showed above with their Champions League goal record, but also in all competitions they have only not scored in a match on 2 occasions.  They have a truckload of Brazilian’s who enjoy dribbling and attacking, and defending less so.  However, I still cannot see them try anything but keep it tight and try to hit us on the break.  If he is thinking likewise, maybe Adriano offers more going forward, and has more pace than Maxwell.  Masch will provide an extra line of security that in recent matches he has proved how excellent he is in that role.  Afellay will be more positive than Keita, but Pep loves our Malian and he is much more experienced in these games.

Being at home, it is vital we not only win but try and get a proper goal aggregate.  Honestly, I am a bit concerned about if we will be able to do this.  Villa is woefully off form, Barça are being both wasteful and indecisive in front of goal, and Shakhtar are going to come and park the bus and I still suspect park it hard.  It could prove a very frustrating match with plenty of possession but no reward.  Even if we go 1 up, I can still see Shakhtar sitting back and deciding 1-0 isn’t terrible going home with.   They will obviously try and score off the counter or a set piece and if we are pushing everyone forward to break through their defense it could leave us vulnerable, even more so without Abidal and Puyol’s pace.  Victor Valdes is going to need to be at his most alert and as against Villarreal I can see him playing sweeper-keeper a few times.

I think Messi is going to be as important as ever tomorrow.  He can unlock these packed defenses or at least open the space for others.  He has also not been at his best lately but maybe tomorrow will provide the spark and motivation.

Let’s see how it goes.  Enjoy the game readers.  Força Barça

 

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7 Responses to Preview – Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk

  1. apo says:

    I share Crujff’s (and many others’) concerns. These games aren’t going to be easy and Shakhtar have proved before that they can give us a run for our money. I think Villa is going to be the player we need to step up most. It seems like he has long dry spells and then will surprise everyone with a fantastic brace – but that isn’t good enough. I’ve seen him running hard and being eager to get into the game…but he’ll be offside, have a bad touch that lets the ball away from him, etc. I appreciate his enthusiasm but he really needs to step his game up and start being consistent. I wouldn’t mind if this is the game that he turns over a new leaf.

    I have watched a bunch of highlight clips of some of SD’s Brazilians lately and they are pretty flashy. They have lots of speed and good technical ability and their squad really seems to be in form lately. These games aren’t going to be easy but surprisingly I have more faith in Barca’s defense than the offense at the moment so I believe SD can be contained. I wonder if fatigue has been an issue for Messi and Villa?

  2. barcacentralnic says:

    I don’t think a 1-0 win could be seen as a bad result, we would go to Ukraine knowing that a goal would probably be enough to go through; I’m worried about them getting a goal out of the blue and getting a 1-1 here which could happen if we aren’t at our best or have a bit of bad luck. We are probably still good enough to turn round a result like that, but if there is around a 10/15% chance of Shakhtar going through it will probably be after a draw or better for them here. Of course it will be nice to get a two or three goal lead and if we can rest players for the return then all well and good but I don’t think we should think further than getting through the tie. Shakhtar could cause us problems with the speed of Willian and Luiz Adriano. Their full backs like to push up but maybe they won’t risk it much at Camp Nou as we could punish them in the space left. Hopefully Pedro will be back as it could be a game for him. If he is fully fit he will hassle the Shakhtar defenders who like to keep possession and I think we could rob the ball high up if we are physically at our best. But there are doubts here, Pedro’s been injured and Messi came back a little jaded and Villa did not look his best on Saturday. We should be good enough to win but it is a dangerous game.

  3. Lockie17 says:

    Firstly i would just like to say, well done Sporting and what a result @ El Madrigal on Saturday!
    On the Champions league game now and i think this is a difficult game, however at the beginning of the season we would of took the position were in now with open hands (beat Shakthar and were in the Semi)! Massive game tomorrow and from Peps Barcelona on the big nights he has never let us down (not counting Inter and the dodgy ref) i am very confident we will win tomorrow and go through to the Semi where we will face the team from the capital. everyone is banging on about how bad Villa is playing at the moment, i for one thinks this is very harsh, his movement is second to none, work rate is excellent and his assists and vision have been wonderful at times. Yes he is on a scoring drought but hey Messi hasn’t scored for a month? Lets get behind whole squad and support out team! Mes que un club.
    couple of things i would like peoples thoughts on.
    1. re-signing Boita from Sporting fro 2m? 2. Signing Cesc over letting Thiago progress? 3. Possibility of signing Neymar and 4. how good has Mascherano been lately surely our player of the last month?

  4. caleb says:

    Wow. We could have five Clasicos this year… I don’t want too look too far ahead, but just think of the historic posibilities… Let’s hope we hit our top gear at the right time.

    I think we can look at the games today as a warning: any team can get a great result against any team.

    Anyway, I’m excited for the game!

    @ Lockie17,

    1 – uninformed.

    2 – let Cesc rot in London. If he wanted to come home so badly, why’d he keep resigning contracts? Better yet, why’d he leave so early on in his career. We’ve got Thiago and Dos Santos and more coming after that.

    3 – Neymar keeps saying he wants to stay in Brazil. I am more open to looking at signing forwards than midfielders, but perhaps we should first be looking at a CB.

    4 – Masch has been amazing. He’s proving to have been a GREAT buy. I honestly prefer him to anyone as our DM. I think he’s adapted his game brilliantly (both in terms of what he need to do tactically for the team and technically he has altered the way he tackles – thus avoiding all the red cards I thought he would be seeing in La Liga).

  5. bc9jaCulé says:

    First off, I’m humbled by ‘Shakira boy’ for that lone Waka–Waka Laliga–clinchin’ goal he scored against Villareal. After all my heavy criticisms of this dude lately, he finally stepped up to re–establish himself as PIQUÉNBAUER!!!

    On to SD.
    As for me, it’s actually a mixed feelings of potential possibilities against this rather unpredictable side. My core instinct envisages a 5–0 scoreline (in favour of Barça of course) but I’ve got this somewhat scary inclination that we could end up with an unconvincin’ thin win if our fearsome trident of MVP (MessiVillaPedro) continue to misfire and our defense don’t wake up (hopefully not). I still recall the troubles we underwent durin’ our encounters with SD in the 08/09 season, especially that of the UEFA Super Cup where we were forced to play beyond exhaustion before a late Pedro goal bailed us out of the deadlock.

    But(!!!), a lot have changed since then and we can always break through any defensive fortress more easily now. It’s just our wastefulness in front of goal that gives me worries but on a very good day, we shouldn’t have much problem settin’ up a Manita against them. @ least we aint Roma and even Arsenal were able to score 5 goals past them in the group stage.

    All the same, I’m still very positive that we’ll manage a comfortable win against them. Maybe a three–goal margin.

    @Lockie17

    1) Retrievin’ Botia from Sportin’ or Carceres from Sevilla aint bad ideas.

    2) The issue of the acquisition of Cesc is rather delicately lustful for now because if we do, it’ll translate into a VERY RUDE gesture expended on Thiago because he will have to bear the burnt of it. IMHO, we should forget about Cesc for 2 more seasons so as to allow Affelay and Thiago ample time to integrate perfectly into the team.

    3) We sure could do with a reinforcement in our attack because Bojan’s just not Barça stuff (this is my opinion about him though). I just am not sure if Neymar is the right guy.

    4) Masch has been a beast recently and his tackles are far more clinical than what I used to see him execute when he was with Liverpool. He has justified his signin’ but I wouldn’t say we’re better off with him than we were with Yaya Toure.

    Barça — 4
    SD — 1

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

  6. barcacentralnic says:

    Team announced, no Pedro 😦 but Messi is in from the start,

    Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Busquets, Adriano; Xavi, Mascherano, Keita; Iniesta, Messi, Villa.

  7. Barcelona 5-1 Shakhtar; If somebody missed goals, you can watch them here for free, it’s my fan page about Barça – all goals are uploaded! | http://www.squidoo.com/fc_barcelona | Visca el Barça!!

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