UCL: Shakhtar Donetsk v Chelsea
The two sides top Group E on four points apiece and Tuesday’s game will go some way as to settling who can seize control of the group. Both teams had enough to see off Nordsjælland and took a point from the reigning Serie A champions Juventus with goal difference the only divide between the sides.
Chelsea have flown out of the traps in the Premier League and despite looking shaky for a period on Saturday the triumvirate of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard unlocked the Tottenham defence to score two glorious goals and put the game beyond Spurs. Di Matteo has Chelsea playing the brand of expansive and fluid football that Roman Abramovich has craved since he parted with Mourinho, a mission that proved beyond Andre Villas Boas.
Daniel Sturridge returned from injury with a goal, and his return to fitness will take the burden of Fernando Torres, who is the clubs only out-and-out striker. John Terry is set to be recalled for the trip to Ukraine and will keep the captaincy despite disciplinary action taking place behind the scenes.
Shakhtar are also sitting top of their domestic league and after a narrow 2-1 win at the weekend they are now 12 points clear of second placed Dnipro after just 12 games. Mircea Lucescu’s side have smashed in 38 goals in the Ukrainian Premier League and have yet to drop a point.
The reigning Ukrainian champions were a match for Juventus in the 1-1 draw in Turin, and were denied a stone wall penalty early in the match. A red card would have accompanied the penalty and Juventus were lucky to take a point from the encounter as Shakhtar were more than a match for the scudetto winners.
Willian has courted interest from Chelsea, and Tottenham over the last two years and the Brazilian will be desperate to prove a point against the European champions. Two-time Armenian player of the year, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has been in superb form this season and at only 23 looks set for a big move elsewhere in the coming months. He has replaced the creative fulcrum Jadson, who has returned to Brazil after engineering Shakhtar’s Uefa Cup success in 2009, and operating as the number 10 has bagged 14 goals in 11 starts this campaign.
Mkhitaryan is also Shakhtar’s top scorer in the Champions League after his brace saw off Nordsjælland and will be the player that Jon Obi Mikel will have to effectively shackle if Chelsea are to stop the Ukraine side from playing. Mikel has been superb in Chelsea’s last two games, but I can see Mkhitaryan escaping his clutches tonight; back him to score anytime at 9/4.
From a Chelsea perspective Eden Hazard is well priced at 4/1 to notch anytime, better odds than Frank Lampard, and the Belgian is due a goal after being rested by the national side and a sublime assist against Tottenham.
Shakhtar have won three of their last four home encounters against English opposition, but with Chelsea playing this well, a draw could be on the cards. 2-2 wouldn’t be a poor result for either team; back this at 14/1.
We called the draw and BTTS from the match day two of the CL: read our preview here
Make sure you have entered your picks for our Champions League predictor game! Sign up here if you haven’t already entered, for the chance to win £5,000 and an iPad.