Group Stage Fan Preview: Shakhtar Donetsk
Feyenoord, Manchester City, and Napoli. Shakhtar Donetsk have had easier groups to deal with before, let’s just say that. I don’t expect us to outplay Guardiola’s City, or Sarri’s Napoli, or van Bronckhorst’s Feyenoord, but we can give them hell and try to win some points.
This Shakhtar team is in hot form right now, top of the Ukrainian Premier League by 2 points. Taking 21 points from 8 matches, they’ve won 6 straight matches and this hot streak should give them some momentum for a very tough group. The first game will be at the Metalist Stadium in Kharviv against red-hot Napoli.
Even in the temporary stadium, Paulo Fonseca has Shakhtar fierce and dangerous, and don’t be surprised if Napoli find themselves under pressure this time.
Fonseca took a bit of time to adapt to Ukraine, as he was used to Portugal, but now, he seems like a natural. There were some concerns when Shakhtar lost to Celta Vigo in the first round of the Europa League, but now, all the doubts are gone. He easily won the league, and now, he looks set to do it again. We can only hope this carries into Europe.
Darijo Srna. This one goes without saying, as he’s the captain, the legend, and the leader of Shakhtar. He could’ve gone to Barcelona or other clubs for free last year, but instead, he stayed. Even at 35, he’s as important as ever for Shakhtar, the loyal captain that every team dreams of. He’ll have to face Lorenzo Insigne today, but he’s more than capable of defending him. After all, he’s achieved greater tasks…
Marlos. He was voted as the best player in the league last season, and you can see why. Marlos is quick, smart, and creative; without him, Shakhtar are too dry in attack.
Bernard. Shakhtar definitely have a thing for Brazilian attackers, whether it’s Alex Teixeira or Willian, and Bernard is no exception. Bernard joined in 2013, but now, he’s Shakhtar’s most important player, one of the most exciting players I have watched, and with Andriy Yarmolenko gone, the best player in Ukraine. Beware, Group F.
Shakhtar will have a tough time against three teams that play amazing football, but I know we can at least draw against each and every team. Maybe top 2 is too much to ask for, but I do believe that we can and will make it to the Europa League, as is custom with Ukrainian teams.
By: Christian Gura
Photo: Gazetta Press