Chelsea: 6 Key Shakhtar Donetsk Players the Blues Must Stop to Win UCL Clash
Chelsea have a key Champions League showdown looming, with the knowledge that anything less than a victory could seriously jeopardise their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament.
Roberto Di Matteo's side welcome Group E leaders Shakhtar Donetsk to Stamford Bridge Wednesday, having picked up only four points from a possible nine.
The Ukrainian side has been both a dominant force in Europe and domestically, having won all of their 14 games in the Premier League.
With a team made up of several notable Brazilian imports, Shakhtar play entertaining, free-flowing football whilst also being well-organised and disciplined defensively.
Here are six key players in the Shakhtar lineup—players that Chelsea will need to stop if they're to give themselves the best chance of winning the crucial European clash.
Box-to-box midfielder Fernandinho has played in Ukraine since 2005, earning the love of fans with his buccaneering runs through the middle of the park and blistering long shots.
In a way, the Brazilian is a similar type of player to Chelsea's own Ramires. He may be diminutive in relation to others in his position, but he plays with an energy and strength that defies the fact.
One of the goal scorers in the reverse fixture a couple of weeks ago, Di Matteo will be well aware of the dangers the marauding Fernandinho poses to his team.
Expect Ramires to be the man charged with the task of keeping his fellow Brazilian pegged back in his own half.
25-year-old striker Luiz Adriano is another of Shakhtar's long-serving Brazilian imports.
Having cost the Ukranian side only €3 million in a transfer from Internacional five years ago, he has scored an impressive 72 goals in his time in Eastern Europe, including a strike in the 2009 UEFA Cup Final.
Though he stands close to 6'0", Adriano plays the role of hitman with great success and is a powerful force in the air.
John Terry would be a fine choice to prevent the striker from operating as usual, but that's only if Di Matteo decides to throw his Captain Fantastic straight back into the fire.
Forgetting the threats that Shakhtar's attacking players pose for a moment, the steadily improving Yaroslav Rakitskiy is a force in the side's back line that Fernando Torres must overcome for the striker to revitalise his season.
The homegrown central defender has become a regular fixture in the starting lineup, forming a sturdy partnership with Oleksandr Kucher in more recent weeks.
Quick on his feet and strong in the tackle, the biggest question regarding Rakitskiy is his lack of height in aerial situations.
Though it may seem like going against their strengths, Chelsea may need to play more of a wide game Wednesday to exploit their opponents' weaknesses.
One of the most popular footballers in all of Europe, Henrikh Mkhitaryan's ascension to near-legendary status at Shakhtar has been as swift as it has been great.
The Armenian attacking midfielder has already scored 14 goals this season, often playing as a second forward behind Luiz Adriano.
He is quick, clinical in front of goal and very tricky—a similar type of player to his Brazilian counterparts.
John Obi Mikel will have to be on his game to stop Mkhitaryan doing to Chelsea what he has done to so many other teams this season.
In the wake of his team's victory over Chelsea last month, Willian felt it necessary to reveal his desire to move to an elite club in either the Premier League or Serie A as soon as possible.
But putting aside thoughts of a future transfer for now, the Blues must find a way to stop the quick, skillful attacking midfielder Wednesday.
Though his goal-scoring record in recent weeks hasn't been as impressive as some of his teammates', Willian is a creative threat well capable of giving Branislav Ivanovic nightmares on the left flank.
Shakhtar and Croatia captain Darijo Srna has long been the heart and driving force of both club and country.
The right-back will play a key role from his position for the Ukranian side in keeping a lid on the attacking Ashley Cole and Eden Hazard Wednesday.
Though he can be a dangerous threat going forward, Srna's greatest strength is his ability to mark and muscle opponents out of the game.
Having made over 350 appearances for Shakhtar and claimed countless trophies, his influence and importance to the team cannot be underestimated.
Who do you think will be key to Shakhtar's chances Wednesday? Who are the Blues players that need to step up in the Champions League clash?
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