Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk - Match Preview
After City`s hot streak continued at the weekend in the Premier League, Pep & his men switch their focus on Tuesday to Europe when they face Ukrainian League leaders Shakhtar Donetsk at the Etihad.
City can go into the game full of confidence after their victory against Palace. In netting 5 times against Roy Hodgson`s side they became the first team to score 5+ goals in three consecutive top-flight games in a season since Blackburn did so in 1958-59. Following on from securing their biggest defeat of Liverpool in 80 years and Blues can rightly be proud of what how club and their players are re-writing the history books.
But their is no room for complacency. It is only September, the leaves are still on the trees and the watchword is 'caution`. The blistering pace set by Guardiola`s side last season faltered as the year turned and so the joy that all Blues will have been feeling as the nets have bulged both home and away will be tempered with an element of realism - there are stiff tests to come starting with Tuesday`s visitors.
Shakhtar arrive in good form having only lost once since the start of their season in mid-July when they were defeated 0-1 at 'home` by their chief rivals for the title, Dynamo Kyiv. Their league record currently stands P10 W8 D1 GF21 GA8 and their record in their last six games bears a resemblance to City`s own having won 5 and drawn one.
The sides look well matched and City`s Fernandinho, expects an exciting game. The Brazilian midfielder, who played for Shakhtar between 2005-13, says the Ukrainian side will attack -
"We all know they have play attacking football," he said. "There's a lot of Brazilian players in their squad.
"Every year they fight for the title over there and in the Champions League they try to play in the same way they play in their domestic league.
'We have to be prepared for that because they are a dangerous team. They're full of good players.
"They like to play technical football"
He is right. Paulo Fonseca`s squad contains no less than 7 Brazilian players most of them midfielders - Taison, Fred, Bernard, Dentinho, Patrick & Marlos - and one defender, Ismailly. They also have their own prolific Argentinian forward leading the line, Facundo Ferreyra, and so Fernandhino`s prediction of them having good technical skills looks to be spot on.
Their manager, Fonseca, is in his second season in charge of Shakhtar. Born in Mozambique, Fonseca was a professional footballer for 14 years before moving into coaching in 2005. He has had a peripatetic career as a coach rarely staying more than a season at any one club with his latest appointment being his 10th club in 12 years. Fonseca led 'The Pitmen` to the league title last season, his first in charge, however this achievement should perhaps be seen in the context of Shakhtar having finished 1st or second in the Ukrainian Premier League in ever season since 1996-97. During this same period the club has won the Ukrainian Cup 10 times and finished runner up in the same competition 6 times. That said they won the UEFA Cup in 2009 so have won a European trophy far more recently than City which is to be respected.
They dispatched Napoli in their opening fixture in the group taking a 2 goal league before the Italian side scored from the penalty spot. A 4-2-3-1 formation would not be unexpected when they take to the pitch on Tuesday evening under the lights at the Etihad with Taison sitting behind the lone striker Ferreyra. Marlos and Bernard may well complete the midfield three with the Ukrainian Stepanenko and Brazilian Fred forming the defensive midfield pairing.
City come into this game having slotted 4 past their last opponents in the competition, Feyenoord, and in a domestic form which will have them bristling with confidence. Pep`s selection headache is principally who to pick from his bubbling, effervescent forwards with Sterling showing the sort of form which created headlines when he burst onto the scene at Liverpool and Sané heeding his coach`s words, upping his game and reaping the rewards in front of goal. Aguero edged closer to Eric Brook`s goalscoring record on Saturday and in providing another assist for a team mate on Saturday he is demonstrating that he is capable of also buying into his coach`s philosophy (much to the chagrin of the hacks who want their to be 'tension` between the pair).
Sergio Aguero is already a legend in the eyes of City fans but in working harder and adapting his game he seems to be discovering that contributing more than just his own goals can be rewarding in itself - a factor which will only endear him more to the hearts of Blues. City fans love players who work hard for the team and in providing as many assist this season already as he did throughout 2016/17 he is showing that even the best players can learn to change their game. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this change has been an integral part to City`s prolific form & that perhaps this Guardiola does know what he is doing after all?
That said I have benched him for Tuesday`s game in my Predicted XI but fully expect him to come on as a substitute to lash home two goals and become City`s All Time Top Goal Scorer. Defensively we await new on Kompany (of course) and also Benjamin Mendy who hobbled off the pitch on Saturday clearly in some discomfort. Hmmm. His knee was already strapped with tape and so I am not hopeful that he has only suffered a 'knock` rather than a ligament strain hence his absence from the pick. I would be very happy to be proved wrong. Silva B may well start given his technical ability with Sterling chomping at the bit and ready to use his blistering pace to test tired defensive legs later in the game.
It`s a European night and time to carry on from where we left off in Rotterdam!
Come on City!!!
*Stats courtesy of Transfermarkt.com
Opponent to watch:-
Facundo Ferreyra - Shakhtar`s 26 year old Argentinian forward is in good form having scored 8 times in all competitions this season (13 matches) including one against Napoli in the first Group stage game earlier in the month.
Match Officials - Portugal
Referee - Manuel De Sousa
Assistants - Alvaro Mesquita; Ricardo Santos
Harry Potter Wand Merchants - Carlos Xistra; Fabio Verissimo
Fourth Official - Nuno Pereira
Manuel Jorge Neves Moreira de Sousa last took charge of a Manchester City game 7 years ago in August 2010 when City overcame the now defunct FC Timisoara in a home Europa League fixture, with goals from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Dedryck Boyata. He handed out no cards or penalties on that occasion.
It is the 42-year-old`s first Champions League appointment of the season.
Stats** comparison :-
City (Premier League)
Goals per game - 3.5
Avg Possesion - 64.7%
Pass Accuracy - 88.6%
Shots per game - 19.7
Discipline - 12Y, 2R
Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League - domestic stats unavailable)
Goals per game - 2
Avg Possesion - 45.3%
Pass Accuracy - 83.1%
Shots per game - 11
Discipline - 2Y, 0R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
City will be without the unfortunate Gundogan who is still recuperating from Yacob`s vindictive tackle from behind in the League Cup win over Tony Penis`s Knuckle Draggers. Mendy is also sidelined after crocking himself in stopping Townsend from accelerating away in the thumping of Palace at the weekend. Vincent Kompany? Who knows?
Shakhtar will be without midfielder Malyshev and defender Kristsov who are also out with the injury of the moment - knee problems.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danilo
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
Silva B, G Jesus, Sané
Bravo, Mangala, Toure, Delph, Sterling, Diaz, Aguero