Donbass Arena, Donetsk
14th April 2011; 12:15 AM IST
With an impressive home record to preserve, Shakhtar awaits Barca at the Donbass Arena. It’s a record that stretches to about 2 years. They are unbeaten in European competitions at their home, and have lost only once since they moved to this ground. Unfortunately, Shakhtar have left themselves a little too much to do after the first leg at Camp Nou.
Facing a stiff target of overcoming a 5-1 deficit against Barcelona, the tie appears to be almost in the bag for the Spanish Champions. Barcelona faces a situation in which a strong offensive game may not be necessary, however, deviating from a usual game plan may not always work. Writing off Shakhtar would be the last thing one would expect Pep to do; moreover, the players are also aware of this as echoed by Pedro, “Although we are defending a good result it will be tremendously difficult.“
Team News and Tactical Brief
After what happened at the Camp Nou where Shakhtar gave a good account of themselves by attacking Barca, the result would have been a very disappointing one. They would have liked to have some thing to play with on their own turf, where their record is simply outstanding. Having said that, one can expect Shakhtar to relentlessly attack Barcelona.
Things are a little difficult for Shakhtar in terms of their team selection. Having accumulated enough yellow cards, their attacking left-back Rat is suspended. He is joined by the right-back Srna, who is sidelined due to injury. Offensively, this will be a big handicap for the home team as both of them like to join in the attack, similar to what Alves and Adriano do for Barcelona. Olexandr Kucher and Dmytro Chygrynskiy are also on the sidelines. However, Shakhtar still possess enough firepower to make the Catalans feel uncomfortable at the back.
Luis Adriano caused enough concerns for the backline in the first leg, and perhaps was guilty of missing many chances. The midfield will comprise of Willian, Costa and the returning Fernandinho. Shakhtar will be looking to exploit the lack of pace in Barca’s backline, and will have to take their chances. Barcelona will punish them for any mistake they commit. Lucescu knows that there’s no point in playing cautiously as they stare at a 4-goal deficit.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Pyatov, Krivtsov, Ishchenko, Rakitskiy, Chyzhov, Mkhitaryan, Willian, Douglas Costa, Fernandinho ,Hubschman , Adriano
Coming into this tie, Pep’s men would have taken a 5-1 lead any day. Such was the game that they managed to put in 5 goals even when none of their forwards got on the score-sheet. Despite every one including Lucescu suggesting that Barcelona will definitely progress, Pep remains cautious. He knows how fortunate his defense was for not conceding more than one on that night. It is very clear that Barca’s backline lacks pace. With Alves and Adriano more in the offensive zones, the centre of the defense is the weak link. A defensive partnership involving Pique, Busquets or Milito can hardly match the pace of the Brazilians in Shakhtar’s ranks.
With a comfortable lead to protect, Guardiola may go for a game of control over attack. His squad is very thin. With a very tight schedule and mounting injury concerns, Pep would consider resting few of his key players. Iniesta is suspended for this game, which will give Thiago an opportunity to perform at the highest level, in Europe. Pedro, Villa and Afellay could share the front line, giving Messi a much needed rest. Mascherano will be again at the heart of the midfield since he will be missing El Clasico. It will be interesting to see who partners Pique in the centre of defence, as clearly the defence had a tough time dealing with Luis Adriano in the first leg.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Valdes, Alves, Piqué, Milito, Maxwell, Xavi, Mascherano, Thiago, Villa, Pedro, Afellay
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Javier Mascherano (Barcelona)
A man who was once described as an expensive bench warmer is now an important part of Pep’s midfield force. The Argentine had to considerably adapt his game to settle into this midfield, but now is a vital part of Pep’s plans, running into the end of the season. He has given an option for the manager to cover his defensive shortcomings using Busquets. He is one of the best tacklers in the game and generally owns his part of territory, giving Xavi and Iniesta the much needed defensive assurance behind them.
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 FC Barcelona
Even with a not so full strength squad, not many expect Barca to throw away a four goal lead. Barcelona will be controlling the ball for much of the game and will look to limit the attacking opportunity for Shakhtar. Barca’s snail paced defense cannot hold Shakhtar’s impressive attack, however, as the home team will push its men forward, it will open up space for Barcelona to exploit.
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