Shakhtar Donetsk in focus

Manchester City face Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Here, Football Paradise takes a closer look at their Group F opponents.

Familiar rivals

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring against Shakhtar last season
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring against Shakhtar last season (Martin Rickett/PA)

The match is no venture into the unknown for City having been paired with Shakhtar in last season’s group stage but their memories of the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv are not positive ones. Admittedly the encounter in December was a dead rubber for Pep Guardiola’s side, having already secured their place in the last 16, and played in freezing temperatures, but the 2-1 loss was still a shock. It was City’s first defeat of the season in any competition and was a blow to their pride. City won their meeting at the Etihad Stadium 2-0 with goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

Background

Shakhtar continue to play in Kharkiv, almost 200 miles from their home city of Donetsk, having been forced into exile by war in the Donbass region four years ago. They tried playing games in Lviv – around 780 miles from Donestsk – but attendances were poor. They have been more warmly welcomed in Kharkiv, a city without a top-flight side of its own after the original Metalist club folded in 2016. The more recently-formed FC Metalist Kharkiv currently play in Ukraine’s second tier.

Brazilian influence

Shakhtar have been the dominant force in Ukrainian football for some time and a lot of that has been down to a strong Brazilian core in their dressing room. Their current squad contains nine Brazilians while Brazil-born midfielder Marlos now qualifies for Ukraine through residency. City’s influential midfielder Fernandinho came to the club via Shakhtar, spending eight seasons there before moving in 2013 and following a path previously trodden by Elano. Chelsea’s Willian first played in Europe with Shakhtar while Fred left them for Manchester United in the summer. Aside from the Brazilians, Shakhtar’s squad also contains a former City player in Nigerian striker Larry Kayode. He joined City in 2017 but was immediately loaned to Girona and then Shakhtar before making the move to Ukraine permanent in the summer.

Highly-rated – and fun-loving – manager

Fonseca dressed as ‘Zorro’ during a press conference
Fonseca dressed as ‘Zorro’ during a press conference (Andy Hampson/PA)

Paulo Fonseca is rated as one of the best up-and-coming young managers in Europe. The 45-year-old Portuguese has been linked with Everton and West Ham in the past year and, very recently, with Aston Villa. He did not have a notable playing career and retired at 32, while a spell coaching Porto proved short-lived. However, he impressed at Braga before moving to Shakhtar in 2016. After last season’s victory over City – which saw Shakhtar qualify for the last 16 – he fulfilled a promise to carry out his post-match press conference in the hat, mask and cape of his swashbuckling hero Zorro.

Form

Shakhtar won the Ukrainian double last year with their title success being their 11th Premier League crown since 2001/02. They are leading the way again this season after winning 10 of their opening 12 games. They have begun their Champions League campaign with 2-2 draws at home to Hoffenheim and away at Lyon.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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