Real Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they lock horns with Shakhtar Donetsk in a UEFA Champions League Group B clash on Tuesday.
After suffering a shock 1-2 defeat to Alaves over the weekend in La Liga, Real Madrid will be hoping to produce a strong reaction and earn qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League when they take on Shakhtar Donetsk at the NSC Olympiyskiy in Kyiv on Tuesday.
It has been an inconsistent campaign for Real Madrid, who haven’t quite been able to string together a run of good results. Los Blancos are second in Group B following the 2-0 win over Inter Milan last week, a point behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach and a win here would take them through to the Round of 16. However, the Alaves loss will have not done any good to their confidence.
Shakhtar Donetsk, meanwhile, are third in Group B, three points below Real Madrid. The Ukrainian giants desperately need a win to keep their hopes of making it to the knockout stages. Luis Castro’s men succumbed to a 4-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach on Matchday 4 of the Champions League but were able to bounce back with a 1-0 win over Dnipro in the league this past weekend.
The reverse fixture, played last month, saw Shakhtar pick up a shock 3-2 win over Real Madrid, with Tete and Manor Solomon scoring on either side of a Raphael Varane own goal in the first half while Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior scored for the hosts after the break. Ahead of their latest meeting in Kyiv, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
The home team will be without the services of defenders Ismaily and Viktor Korniyenko for the game while Maksym Malyshev and Yevhen Konoplyanka are also ruled out of action until next month. There are likely to be a few changes to the side that started against Dnipro in the league encounter last time out.
The first alteration ought to take place in goal where captain and seasoned campaigner Andriy Pyatov should be reinstated to the lineup. Dodo should continue at right-back, while Mykola Matviyenko could slot in on the left side of the defence. Serhiy Kryvtsov and Valeriy Bondar should form the centre-back partnership.
Taras Stepanenko will slot in as the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to curb the influence of his Real Madrid counterparts. The attacking responsibilities from the centre of the park will fall on the shoulders of Marlos and Alan Patrick, who should return to the side after being rested in midweek.
20-year-old Tete, who scored the only goal of the game against Dnipro, should feature on the right flank while Israeli youngster Manor Salomon should feature on the left. Junior Moraes, who missed the weekend game due to suspension, should start as the centre-forward ahead of Fernando.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pyatov; Dodo, Bondar, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko; Marlos, Stepanenko, Patrick; Tete, Moraes, Solomon
Real Madrid have been dealt with another setback as Eden Hazard came off injured against Alaves at the weekend and has been ruled out of the contest. The Belgian joins Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Luka Jovic and Alvaro Odriozola on the sidelines.
There is some good news though, with Karim Benzema back in the travelling squad after having missed the last few fixtures with an injury. Given the importance of the Frenchman to this Real Madrid side, he should instantly slot back into the starting XI, even though he might not be 100% fit on Tuesday.
Benzema will have support from Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior from the flanks, with the latter coming in for the injured Hazard, while Luka Modric will provide the creative essence from the middle of the park. The Croatian will have Toni Kroos in support in midfield, whereas the fit-again Casemiro will sit deep and screen the patched-up defence.
Given the number of injuries at the back, Zidane will once again have to use Nacho in the starting XI, although the Spaniard should move to the right-back slot, with the returning Eder Militao starting at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. The Brazilian should partner Raphael Varane at the back, with Ferland Mendy occupying the left-back slot.
There is no looking past Belgian international Thibaut Courtois, who will be hoping to redeem himself after a poor display at the weekend, in the Real Madrid goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Nacho, Varane, Militao, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Vazquez, Benzema, Vinicius
- This will just be Real Madrid’s second away game against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League. The last time they played them in Ukraine in November 2015, Los Blancos defeated the hosts 4-3.
- The previous three meetings between the two sides in the UEFA Champions League have seen a total of 16 goals, at an average of 5.3 per game.
- Real Madrid have lost just one of their seven away games against Ukrainian opponents in European competitions (W2 D4). The only defeat came way back in 1999 against Dynamo Kyiv.
- Since beating Real Madrid on Matchday 1 of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League, Shakhtar Donetsk have managed to pick up just one point in Group B from their subsequent three fixtures. They have failed to score in each of those matches while letting in as many as 10 goals.
- A win for Real Madrid will ensure they qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for a 24th consecutive season, a competition record.
Player to Watch
The 32-year-old’s absence in the last few matches has been felt by Real Madrid, as the Merengues lacked a focal point in their attack without Benzema. While goals are a given, the Frenchman brings so much more to the table with his movement and link-up play in the final third.
The fact that he has travelled with the rest of the squad to Ukraine will have come as a huge boost to Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid. Given the manner of their defeat at the weekend and the importance of the game against Shakhtar, it becomes pivotal that Benzema starts in Kyiv and adds to his tally of six goals and three assists for the season.
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid come into the game on the back of a poor performance that ended in defeat and considering that Shakhtar have already beaten them this term, the Ukrainian giants will back themselves to get something from this game.
However, the hosts have failed to score a single goal in their last three Champions League matches, while shipping as many as ten goals. That does bode well for Zinedine Zidane & co. who will further be boosted by the return of Karim Benzema in the squad. Thus, The Hard Tackle predicts a win for Los Blancos earning them safe passage to the knockouts.