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Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Juventus preview
Shakhtar Donetsk hosts Juventus on Wednesday in a crucial Champions League Group E match. The winner will not only claim the group, but if Juventus picks up at least a point, they’ll eliminate the holders Chelsea from the competition.
In their last meeting in Turin, Shakhtar took the game to Juve, but thanks to a little luck and some lackluster finishing from the Ukrainians, the Italian champions escaped with an undeserved point. The Eastern European giants pounded the Bianconeri on the counter with their pace, technique, and quick passing. This will be key for both sides as Juventus was also hammered on counter attacks by AC Milan 10 days ago. Juve will need to be wary of the forward runs of Fernandinho along with the intricate ball movement from Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Alex Teixera. Right back Dario Srna will also be making runs forward and playing almost like a winger, so Juventus needs to watch out for him as well. If not, it’ll be a long day for the Scudetto holders.
Shakhtar needs to watch out for a few things from their opponents. Firstly, the defence. Whenever there’s a free kick in Juve’s defensive third or a goal kick, Gianluigi Buffon always plays it short to one of his defenders, who then proceed to knock a long ball forward into the attacking third. Shakhtar’s front four must close down those defenders, that’s what Chelsea failed to do and they got torn apart. Inter did this to Juventus a month ago and ended the 49 game undefeated streak. It’s a small detail that goes unnoticed, but it’s more integral to Juventus’ attack than some may think.
There’s also the midfielders and wingbacks. Kwadwo Asamoah and one of Mauricio Isla or Stephan Lichtsteiner will be bombing forward and back all game, so it’s important to break out of the defence quickly and to shut down the flanks when Juventus moves forward. As for the central part of the pitch, Andrea Pirlo needs to be man marked, but surely Mircea Lucescu has already told Mkhitaryan to do so. They also can’t forget Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba as they tend to be “destroyers” to opponents, but they’re far from it. They’ll be lurking around the top of the box and will occasionally dart into the penalty area and have a shot.
The lineups are missing some significant starters. For Shakhtar, they’ll be without striker Luiz Adriano as he serves a one match ban for his unsportsmanlike goal at Nordsjaelland two weeks ago. Midfielder Tomas Hubschman has a thigh injury, so he’s doubtful for the game along with center back Dmytro Chygrynskiy. They’ll be deploying their usual 4-2-3-1. Juventus’ only absence is Claudio Marchisio as he’s serving a ban for yellow card accumulation, so Pogba is likely to occupy his role. The other two dilemmas for Antonio Conte will be who to play at right wingback. Isla will get the nod if Conte wants a more attacking option and Lichsteiner will play if the coaching staff wants to be more defensive. The striking partnership will most likely be Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic, but that can change.
Shakhtar is already through to the round of sixteen, but they’re not the kind of team who wants to roll over for someone else. They’ll take the game to Juventus and the visitors will obviously be giving it their all as they try to progress to the next stage. Don’t expect a stale moment during this match, because it’s going to be a fun one.
Follow Peter Galindo on Twitter: @pgalindo16