Manchester City will be looking to continue on their winning ways, when they face off against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League.
Manchester City will welcome Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk to the Etihad Stadium for their fourth Group F encounter of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Manchester City made light work of the Ukrainian Premier League leaders last time the two teams met a fortnight ago, beating them 3-0 with goals coming from David Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva. Following that victory, Pep Guardiola’s men have won three in three in the Premier League, with the latest coming in the form of a 6-1 mauling of Southampton this past weekend.
Currently occupying the top spot in the group, with six points from three matches, the Citizens’ only loss in Europe this term came at home against Olympique Lyon. And they will be keen to avoid such a situation and bag all three points on Wednesday and further extend their lead at the top.
Shakhtar Donetsk, on the other hand, remain rooted to the bottom of the table in Group F, with just two points from three matches, courtesy of draws against Lyon and Hoffenheim. Since their defeat to Manchester City, Paulo Fonseca’s men have picked up three victories in a row, against Arsenal Kyiv, Olimpik Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv, most recently.
Shakhtar have been very consistent in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning 12 of their 14 matches and losing just one. And Fonseca will be hoping to translate that form onto the continental stages and come away with an upset result from Etihad on Wednesday.
Team News & Tactics
City have been boosted by the return of Ilkay Gundogan and Nicolas Otamendi ahead of the game. However, they will continue to be without the services of creator-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne, who is sidelined for a period of 5-6 weeks, while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also remains absent.
Guardiola is likely to make a few changes to the team that started against Southampton this past weekend. Ederson Moraes will continue between the sticks for the Mancunians. John Stones is likely to be given a breather though, with Vincent Kompany expected to partner up Aymeric Laporte in the heart of the defence. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy should continue as the full-backs.
Former Shakhtar Donetsk star Fernandinho will continue as the deepest of the midfielders for Manchester City on Wednesday and will be in charge of breaking up play in the middle. The two Silvas – David and Bernardo will provide the creative presence and the forward thrust for the home side.
Riyad Mahrez did not feature against Southampton at the weekend and should come into the starting XI on the right flank, while in-form man Raheem Sterling is expected to feature from the get go on the opposite wing. Spearheading the attack for Manchester City will be Gabriel Jesus, in place of star striker Sergio Aguero.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, David Silva; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling;
There was some good news for Shakhtar with star attacker Taison returning to action this past weekend, having missed the reverse fixture against City. Fonseca will also be able to call upon Marlos, who also missed the previous match against Guardiola’s team. However, Ivan Ordets, Maksym Malyshev and Fernando are all unlikely to feature for the Ukrainians.
Veteran goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov will continue under the woodwork for the visitors at the Etihad. He will need all the protection that he can get from his back four that will comprise of Bogdan Butko and Ismaily as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with Yaroslav Rakitiskiy and Sergiy Kryvtsov lining up at the heart of the defence.
Ukrainian international Taras Stepanenko will take up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park for Shakhtar and will be partnered by 21-year-old Brazilian talent Maycon. Both will be tasked with trying to get stuck into the City midfielders to try and disrupt their rhythm in the midfield.
With Marlos back in full fitness, he should walk into the team on the right flank, while club captain Taison will slot in on the left flank and look to pose problems for the City full-backs. Viktor Kovalenko, who scored the winner against Dynamo Kyiv at the weekend, is likely to be rewarded with a start on Wednesday in the No.10 role. Junior Moraes, who has 14 goals this term, should lead the line.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Butko, Rakitskiy, Kryvtsov, Ismaily; Maycon, Stepanenko; Marlos, Kovalenko, Taison; Moraes;
- Wednesday’s encounter marks the fourth competitive meeting between Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk. The Premier League champions have trumped on two occasions, while losing once.
- Manchester City have won 14 of their 17 matches in all competitions this season (2 draws). Their only defeat came against Olympique Lyon in their UEFA Champions League opener.
- Shakhtar Donetsk have lost just three of their 19 fixtures across all competitions in the 2018-19 campaign (W13, D3), one of which came against Manchester City last month.
- The Ukrainian Premier League leaders have conceded at least two goals in their previous three matches in the UEFA Champions League.
- Manchester City have kept eight clean sheets in their previous ten matches across all competitions.
Player to Watch
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
After a sensational 2017-18 campaign, where he constantly pushed Sergio Aguero for a starting berth, the Brazilian sensation has seen his form dwindle this time out. The 21-year-old Jesus, this season, has managed just two goals in 14 matches across all competitions, with his last goal coming in September in the Carabao Cup encounter against Oxford United.
Jesus was given the nod for the reverse fixture against Shakhtar, but failed to make a mark on the night. The Brazilian international continues to work hard on the pitch, but has looked short on confidence in front of goal in recent matches. The striker is in desperate need of a goal and will be looking to end his dry run against Fonseca’s men on Wednesday.
Manchester City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Manchester City are playing with immense confidence and swagger once again, as witnessed in their thrashing of Southampton this past weekend, with their attack firing on all cylinders. On the other hand, Shakhtar have struggled defensively in Europe, having already let in seven goals in their three matches this season.
While the Citizens did lose their only home game in the Champions League this term, Shakhtar’s away form has been poor of late – having won just one in their last nine matches, failing to score in seven of those games.
Given how easily Guardiola’s side dispatched the Ukrainians last time out, we at The Hard Tackle expect them to walk away with another comfortable victory on Wednesday night and take a step closer towards qualification for the next round.