Shakhtar Donetsk vs Celta Vigo – Thursday 20:05 GMT/21:05 CET Metalist Stadium – Kharkiv.
There certainly were doubts in Shakhtar Donetsk’s camp over whether the squad was ready to face La Liga side Celta Vigo given the long winter break in Ukraine. Paulo Fonseca, however, was able to get his men ready just in time for the first leg of the round of 16 in the Europa League.
Shakhtar won the match in Spain 1-0, thanks to a wonderful goal by newly signed striker, Gustavo Blanco Leschuk, and are now heading back to Ukraine as the favourites to advance to the next round.
Shakhtar, in fact, have continued their impressive European campaign with their ninth consecutive victory in the competition this season. Shakhtar already looked like the team to beat in the group stage of the competition, but there is always considerable doubt over post-Soviet teams immediately following the lengthy winter break.
Previous manager, Mircea Lucescu, had always been able to get Shakhtar fit on the spot, but this was Paulo Fonseca’s first experience of a lengthy winter off. As it turns out, however, the Portuguese manager continues with his perfect management of the squad by getting his players ready just in time.
Furthermore, new signing, Blanco Leschuk, who moved to the club from league rivals, Karpaty Lviv, in the winter, gives Shakhtar even more depth up front. Hence, with the domestic title more or less wrapped up, Shakhtar can now focus on getting the job done in Europe as well.
Shakhtar will now head back not only to Ukraine, but also to a new home ground. The war in the Donbass has forced the club to play its European home games in Lviv but, due to dwindling attendance numbers in Western Ukraine, the club has been on the outlook for a new home.
With UEFA clearing Kharkiv for international games, Shakhtar have now decided to move their home games to the Metalist Stadium, which has been empty since Metalist Kharkiv’s bankruptcy. Kharkiv’s geographic location in Eastern Ukraine means that the stadium is much easier to reach for traditional Donetsk supporters—the stadium already hosted Shakhtar’s home game against Dynamo Kyiv earlier in the season in what turned out to be a fantastic evening.
For Celta Vigo, this will mean that they are in for a hotly contested European night in what will likely be a very cold evening in Kharkiv. With this in mind, Shakhtar are now firm favourites to advance to the next round.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Celta Vigo – Players to look out for:
Gustavo Blanco Leschuk was Shakhtar’s major signing in the winter break. The Argentine, who also holds a Ukrainian passport, has already shown that he can bring more depth to what is already an impressive attacking force.
Swedish striker John Guidetti seems to have been around for quite some time, but the talented striker is still only 24-years of age. Originally joining Manchester City back in 2007, Guidetti spent most of his time with the Citizens on loan at various clubs before he finally left City in the summer of 2015. He at long last seems to have settled in Spain and, with consistent playing time, might finally develop into the sort of power forward that many expected him to become when he first burst on the scene while on loan with Feyenoord in 2011-12.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Celta Vigo – Match Stats
- Shakhtar have won only five of their 24 meetings with Spanish clubs (W5 D6 L13).
- Shakhtar are on an eight-game winning streak in all-European competitions.
- Shakhtar were the only side to win all six of their group stage fixtures.
- Shakhtar ended the group stage with a +16 goal differential—seven greater than any other team.
- Shakhtar have won all five of their UEFA home games this season by a 15-0 aggregate score.
- The journey from Vigo to Kharkiv, where Shakhtar are playing their European home games, is around 3,500km.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Celta Vigo 2-0
Pyatov – Ismaily, Rakitsky, Kucher, Srna – Kovalenko, Fred – Bernard, Marlos – Ferreyra, Blanco Leschuk
Manager: Paulo Fonseca
Álvarez – Castro, Cabral, Roncaglia, Mallo – Sanchez, Díaz – Bongonda, Hernández, Wass – Guidetti
Manager: Eduardo Berizzo