Real Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Shakhtar Donetsk in a UEFA Champions League Group D encounter this week.

Real Madrid will be hoping to put an end to their three-game winless streak across all competitions when they lock horns with Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League in Kyiv on Tuesday night.

Real Madrid, after a rather solid start under the management of Carlo Ancelotti, saw their form dither just before the international break. Indeed, after having been held to a goalless draw by Villarreal in La Liga, Los Blancos suffered a shock loss to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League before losing to Espanyol in the league.

Having not played after the end of the international break as their clash against Athletic Bilbao got postponed, the Real Madrid stars have gotten a couple of days’ extra rest. They will want to make the most of it and cut down the gap to leaders Sheriff Tiraspol with a victory. However, in their way will be a tricky Shakhtar Donetsk side who will make life difficult despite their dodgy form in Europe.

Indeed, Roberto De Zerbi’s side are currently rooted to the bottom of Group D level on points with third-placed Inter Milan (1 point), having lost to Sheriff and drawn against the Nerazzurri. However, it must be noted that they are on a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions and thrashed Zorya Luhansk 6-1 in their most recent fixture in the domestic league.

With both teams needing a win to further their chances of making it to the knockout phases, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at this crunch encounter that will go down in Kyiv.

Team News & Tactics

Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk are likely to be without just two players for the Real Madrid clash with Junior Moraes and Lassina Traore currently recovering from injuries. Apart from him, Roberto De Zerbi has a near full-strength squad at his disposal and will look to make the most of their opponents’ recent struggles and heap further misery on them.

De Zerbi is likely to revert to the 4-1-4-1 formation that he used against Inter Milan that helped Shakhtar secure a goalless draw. Andriy Pyatov will be the man in goal for the home team. He will be protected by a backline comprising Dodo and Ismaily as the full-backs flanking the centre-back pairing of Marlon Santos and Mykola Matviyenko.

Taras Stepanenko will provide further protection to the backline, slotting in as the sole defensive midfielder. He will have additional support from Maycon, who will line up in a slightly advanced role in the middle of the park, while his partner, Alan Patrick, will carry the creative burden from the centre of the field.

Pedrinho and Manor Solomon will carry a great threat from the wide areas and look to cause problems to Real Madrid’s full-backs while Fernando, who was on target at the weekend against Zorya, should spearhead the Shakhtar Donetsk attack.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Pyatov; Dodo, Marlon, Matviyenko, Ismaily; Stepanenko; Pedrino, Maycon, Patrick, Solomon; Fernando

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have a host of injury issues for their game against Shakhtar. Manager Carlo Ancelotti will have to make do without Dani Carvajal, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Dani Ceballos and Isco for the trip to Ukraine. Marco Asensio has shrugged off his injury issue and has been named in the squad for the midweek clash while Ferland Mendy and Eduardo Camavinga are also in the travelling party.

Real Madrid will line up in their usual 4-3-3 formation, with Thibaut Courtois slotting in between the sticks, shielded by the centre-back pairing of Eder Militao and David Alaba. Nacho ought to get the nod at right-back in Carvajal’s continued absence while Miguel Gutierrez should feature at left-back ahead of Marcelo and Mendy.

Casemiro is a certain starter at the base of the three-man midfield for the Spanish giants, from where he will look to break up the hosts’ counterattacks and set the forwards on their way. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos should occupy the remaining two midfield slots, with Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga being options from the bench.

There is no looking past Karim Benzema in the No. 9 slot for Real Madrid. The French hitman will be flanked by the Brazilian duo Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior, with Asensio likely to be used as a late substitute.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Alaba, Gutierrez; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.

Key Stats

  • For a second consecutive season, Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid will meet in the UEFA Champions League group stages – Shakhtar beat Madrid in both meetings last season (3-2 away, 2-0 home).
  • Real Madrid could lose three consecutive UEFA Champions League matches against an opponent for the third time – previously they have lost four in a row versus Bayern Munich between May 2000 and April 2002 and three on the bounce against Juventus between March 2005 and November 2008.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk have had the most shots of any team yet to score in the UEFA Champions League this season (32).
  • Real Madrid were beaten by Sheriff Tiraspol at home last time out in the Champions League. Their manager Carlo Ancelotti has not lost consecutive games in the competition since April 2017.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk’s Manor Solomon is looking to become the first player since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score in three consecutive Champions League appearances against Real Madrid.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

The most in-form striker in all of Europe currently, Benzema has made a roaring start to the new season, plundering 10 goals and seven assists in just ten matches across all competitions for Real Madrid. On top of that, the 33-year-old is coming into the game high on confidence after having helped France to the UEFA Nations League triumph during the international break.

His form, goal-return, coupled with the trophy has sparked talks of a Ballon d’Or triumph for the veteran striker. Whether that materialises or not remains to be seen, but for Real Madrid to recover from their current slump, they will need Benzema to be firing on all cylinders on Tuesday night.


Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Real Madrid

Shakhtar Donetsk are without a loss in their last six games in all competitions while they also did a double on Real Madrid in the last season’s Champions League. So, they will fancy their chances going into Tuesday’s contest, especially considering that Los Blancos have lost both of their last two games.

However, the experience and quality that the likes of Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, David Alaba, among others, bring to the table, should help Real Madrid salvage a point from their trip to Ukraine. The Hard Tackle predicts a scored draw in Kyiv.

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