Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk to Win
The UEFA Europa League gets underway on Wednesday evening as Shakhtar Donetsk host Wolfsburg, with a place in the competition’s quarter-finals the prize for the victors.
Heading into the clash, it is the Ukranian side that are ahead, having established a 2-1 lead in the first leg at the Volkswagen Arena. They will hope to retain, or even add to that advantage, and reach a last-eight tie against either Basel or Eintracht Frankfurt.
Having dropped into UEFA’s second tier continental competition from the UEFA Champions League, Luis Castro’s men were probably one of the strongest in the competition. That was justified in the last round as they managed to overcome Portuguese giants Benfica 5-4 on aggregate, as well as the aforementioned victory against Wolfsburg in the first-leg of their tie. The 2009 winners of the competition, they come into this match having only played teams from two countries more than they have German sides. Having faced 21 previous battles against German outfits, they possess an indifferent record with seven wins, seven defeats and seven draws. Only two of those losses though have come in the Europa League, both to one of last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt. One aspect that could potentially count against them however is their defensive record in Europe. The team have not managed to keep a clean sheet in any European competition since the 2016/17 season, something they will certainly have to tighten up on, especially with the threat of Wolfsburg potentially getting an away goal.
The hosts will be without Brazilian left-back Ismaily for the match as he continues to suffer from injury. He is likely to be replaced by Marquinhos Cipriano for the clash. Junior Moraes, who has already hit 19 goals throughout the season in all competitions, is likely to lead the line once again.
Following an extremely inconsistent end to the Bundesliga campaign in which they finished 7th, Oliver Glasner’s troops will be keen to overturn their deficit and reach the quarter final of a major European competition, something that they have not failed to do so when in either the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League since the 2008/09 campaign. Unlike Shakhtar, they do not have a long history of facing Ukrainian outfits, with this particular match-up the first in their history. Regardless of that, and the loss in the first-leg at home, they should still be relatively confident considering their away record in all competitions. They are yet to be defeated on foreign soil in the UEFA Europa League so far this season, whilst also managing to only lose five away Bundesliga games throughout the campaign. Should they continue that form then they might well have a fantastic chance of progressing.
One man who will not be taking to the field is former Newcastle United man Kevin Mbabu, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus. He remains in quarantine so cannot travel to Ukraine. He is set to be replaced by Renato Steffen in the starting line-up. Long-term absentees Ignacio Camacho and William remain restricted to the sidelines, whilst Paulo Otavio is unlikely to feature.
Key Facts To Consider
- Wolfsburg have never progressed from a two-legged European tie having lost the first leg at home
- Should Shakhtar win, they would progress to the quarter-finals of a European competition for the first time since 2015/16
- The Ukrainian outfit have only lost four out of their last 25 matches in the UEFA Europa League
- Wolfsburg have only lost one out of their last 11 away matches in all competitions
- Wolfsburg are undefeated in their last nine away games in the Europa League
Considering their experience in European campaigns and the advantage that Shakhtar managed to accumulate in the first-leg, they should certainly have enough to progress to the quarter-finals. They will certainly be more confident considering Wolfsburg’s indifferent form towards the back end of their league campaign. The German outfit will be stubborn though desperate to rectify their poor result from the first leg.
Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk to Win