Shakhtar Donetsk are relative veterans on the Champions League scene. The Ukrainian giants will be appearing in the group-stage for their 11th campaign in the past 13 seasons and they’ve even reached the knockouts in four of the last seven years. These are familiar waters for the Miners.
Again forced to play on the road due to the conflict in Donetsk, Shakhtar will welcome Manchester City, Lyon and Wednesday night’s visitors Hoffenheim to their nomadic home in Kharkiv. Not that they’ve allowed such issues to hold them back in the past.
The Miners beat City, Roma, Napoli and Feyenoord here during last season’s competition and will be aiming for a similar return in 2018/19.
It’s true Paolo Fonseca’s charges aren’t quite the force of old but they’re experts in regeneration and look a smart bet to squeeze their way out of Group F.
Fred, Facundo Ferreya, Bernard and Darijo Srna are no longer around and Shakhtar have once again moved to the Brazilian market to bring in the latest bright, young South American talents. Maycon is the latest eye-catching arrival and with Taison still leading the line, the adopted Kharkiv club still pack a punch.
Fonseca signed a new deal with the club despite interest from West Ham and Everton and his attack-minded side have earned heady praise from the likes of Pep Guardiola for the style and swagger during the past 12 months.
It means Wednesday night’s tussle could be an enjoyable watch for neutrals.
Both the home win (2.05) and Over 2.5 Goals (1.70) present appealing plays.
The hosts haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last 10 Champions League tussles as hosts, while Fonseca’s 13 games as a coach in the competition have brought about a solitary shutout.
Indeed, all four of Shakhtar’s home Champions League outings produced profit for Over 2.5 Goals punters, as well as Both Teams To Score backers 12 months ago and if we go further back, nine of their past 10 European outings in Ukraine have featured three goals or more.
The absence of key centre-back Ivan Ordets through suspension should give Hoffenheim plenty of encouragement although the Bundesliga outfit are in the midst of their own selection quandary.
The Germans could be without their best defender Kevin Vogt and now Florian Grillitsch, meaning up to 10 players are potentially absent for the Champions League debutants.
The guests have started their season with two defeats from three – both away days at Bayern Munich and Fortuna Dusseldorf – with all three fixtures breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. Two of those tussles crossed the Over 3.5 Goals whitewash and Hoffe have been regular contributors to the goals markets under their talented young head coach Julian Nagelsmann.
The 31-year-old has done a remarkable job to bring Hoffenheim to Europe’s top table despite losing a number of standout stars last summer. He’s heading for RB Leipzig next season but has vowed to give the Champions League his best shot with the Sinsheim side, although previous continental displays are concerning.
Die Kraichgauer struggled to balance Bundesliga duties alongside Europa League commitments last term, only finding form and consistency once exiting the European stage before Christmas. Nevertheless, despite their W1-D2-L5 return, all eight games featured both sides scoring, a trend that’s strong in Germany.
Hoffenheim have netted in all bar five of their 43 away days in the Bundesliga under Nagelsmann with 77% of those encounters copping in the BTTS market, as well as 58% rewarded Over 2.5 Goals hunters.
The newcomers kept only six clean sheets in that sample and suffered defeats in 40% of their road trips.
The village club are in unchartered territory and with more leading lights departing in the summer, may not be capable of keeping up with Europe’s big guns. However, if they are to go down, you can be sure they’ll exit the competition swinging with pace, style and panache.
- Shakhtar Donetsk to win (2.05)
- Over 2.5 Goals (1.70)