Josh Mart takes the opportunity to preview PSG’s tricky trip to the Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions’ League group stage second matchday. PSG cruised to victory against Malmo in the competition opener, winning the match 2-0 at the Parc des Princes. Shakhtar meanwhile, were somewhat humiliated at the hands of the might of Real Madrid, as they lost 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This tie, which will be played in Lviv due to the continuing political issues affecting eastern Ukraine, is a key match in the group phase, as a PSG victory would give the Parisians a huge boost towards qualifying for the knockout rounds, especially with a double header against Real Madrid to come. A Shakhtar win would get them back on track with a double header against unfancied Malmo up next.
Shakhtar have been in good form in the Ukrainian Premier League, an undefeated streak since a 2-0 defeat to Dnipro in August has seen the Donetsk side rise to 2nd in the table, behind rivals Dynamo Kiev. Saturday’s 3-2 victory in the Donetsk derby should give the players real confidence ahead of the visit of Paris Saint Germain. Talisman Alex Teixeira notched twice in the game, and the Brazilian has been in superb form for ‘The Miners’ over the last 12 months, and he is one for PSG to watch closely.
PSG have bounced back from the disappointing draw with Reims a few weeks ago with back to back wins in Ligue 1. Firstly, Les Parisiens saw off Guincamp with relative ease at the Parc des Princes in a match that ended 3-0 to the home side. Saturday’s 4-1 victory away to Nantes may sound comfortable enough, but PSG fell behind early on, and didn’t take the lead until the last 15 minutes of the game.
The introduction of Edinson Cavani to proceedings seemed to provide the catalyst for what turned out to be a bit of a rout. With Cavani being left on the bench by Laurent Blanc at the weekend, one would assume he will be recalled for the trip to Lviv.
Team News and Tactics
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu is without combative midfielder Taras Stepanenko for this one, due to the suspension received after his red card in Madrid on matchday one. Shevchuk is also doubtful, but aside from that, Shakhtar have a full complement of players available for this one.
With this in mind, I expect Shakhtar to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Pyatov will start in goals behind a back four which is likely to consist of Srna, Ordets, Rakitskiy and one of Ismaily or Azevedo. With Stepanenko out, Lucescu could call on the services of talented young Ukrainian midfielder Kovalenko to support Fred in central midfield. Marlos and Taison are likely to cut in from the right and left flanks respectively, providing ammunition for star man Alex Teixiera who will play just behind target man Gladkiy in attack.
PSG have a couple injury concerns as Gregory Van der Wiel missed the weekend trip to Nantes with a groin problem and David Luiz is also doubtful for this one. Serge Aurier is available after suspension so Laurent Blanc has a real selection headache at the back.
With this in mind, I expect PSG to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation with Kevin Trapp between the posts. Aurier and Van der Wiel (if fit) could fight it out for the right back slot whilst Thiago Silva and Marquinhos could well start at centre half. Maxwell’s experience could be chosen over the relative youth of Layvin Kurzawa at left back.
I expect Matuidi and Motta to be recalled to the starting 11 for this crunch tie, and they are likely to join Marco Verratti in the centre of the park. Blanc has so many options that is hard to predict what he will opt for, but I expect a front 3 of Angel Di Maria, Ibrahimovic and Cavani (right to left) to start in Lviv.
Alex Teixieira (Shakhtar)- Alex Teixeira has been a key player for Shakhtar since joining from Vasco da Gama in 2010. His best form however, has been in the last 12 months or so and he is really stepping up for his side now that Douglas Costa has moved on to pastures new. PSG will have to be guarded against the hugely talented Brazilian.
Cavani (PSG)- Cavani has been in brilliant form this campaign for Les Parisiens and he currently sits joint top of the Ligue 1 scoring charts alongside Hatem Ben Arfa. His huge talent, industry and desire to score and yet also work hard for his teammates make him a phenomenal player on his day.
This is a really tough game to call as a lot is riding on it for both teams. Trips to Ukraine are notoriously labelled as difficult, even if the match isn’t being played in Donetsk. Shakhtar will be keen to get their first points on the board and will be full of confidence after the weekends derby day success. PSG could probably cope with just getting a point here, providing they beat both Malmo away and Shakhtar at home in the latter stages of the group. I hope that PSG set out to win because playing negatively against a team with such attacking potency could be suicidal.
Prediction: Shakhtar 1-2 PSG