Shakhtar vs. Dortmund: Why Alex Teixeira Is the Player to Watch

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Shakhtar vs. Dortmund: Why Alex Teixeira Is the Player to Watch
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Alex Teixeira gave Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole all sorts of problems on Matchday 3 of the Champions League Group Stage.

Alex Teixeira first caught my eye at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, where his Brazil side came runners-up to champions Ghana, having lost the final on penalties.

By then the 19-year-old winger had a full season of professional football with Vasco da Gama already under his belt, and after returning from Egypt he helped the Rio de Janeiro outfit gain promotion back to the top flight of Brazilian football. The following January he made a €6 million move to Shakhtar Donetsk, who in the spring were crowned Ukrainian champions—as they have been each season Teixeira has been with the club

They will almost certainly claim a fourth title on the bounce this May, having put 13 points between themselves and second-place Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk with 12 matches to play. And unlike his first two seasons at the club, when he was in and out of the lineup, Teixeira has been vital to the cause this time around, and will be a central figure over the two Round of 16 legs against Borussia Dortmund as well.

Shakhtar, like their Bundesliga opponents, have their most reliable route to goal on the right-hand side of the park. Where Dortmund right-back Lukasz Piszczek and winger Jakub Blaszczykowski will look to overwhelm Shakhtar left-back Ravzan Rat, Teixeira and Shakhtar right-back Darijo Srna will double up on Marcel Schmelzer.

Stylistically, Teixeira is somewhat similar to former Shakhtar winger Willian, who left the club for the paycheque of Anzhi Makhachkala during the January transfer window. Willian will likely be replaced on the left of the attack by Douglas Costa (who was also part of that 2009 Brazil team), but his departure makes Teixeira all the more vital to manager Mircea Lucescu.

During the Champions League Group Stage Teixeira caused all sorts of problems for the Juventus defense and outplayed Kwadwo Asamoah on his wing in Turin, and his goal in Shakhtar’s 1-1 draw was one of the major factors in the Ukrainian side’s eventual progression. He also caught Chelsea napping in the early moments of their meeting at Donbass Arena on Matchday 3 and terrorized Ashley Cole in the 82 minutes he played.

Dortmund have been shaky in front of their own goal at times this season and come into Wednesday’s match having allowed six goals in their last two matches—four of which came in a 4-1 loss at home to Hamburg on Saturday. An early concession could really shake the visitors’ confidence, and Teixeira is the likeliest Shakhtar player to provide that tremor.

If there is a concern with the 23-year-old, as with the rest of the Shakhtar squad, it’s that they haven’t played a competitive match since December, as the Ukrainian League shuts down over the winter. But they did win the friendly Copa del Sol tournament in January and also defeated Zamalek, Al-Hilal and Zenit St. Petersburg in recent tune-up games.

Teixeira, for his part, scored four times in his last six competitive outings, all of which—not surprisingly—Shakhtar won.

No doubt Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp will have instructed his players—particularly Schmelzer—to pay Teixeira special attention on Wednesday. But even if the Brazilian doesn’t find the back of the net, a menacing performance would serve in minimizing the effectiveness of either Marco Reus or Kevin Grosskreutz—one of whom will be operating on the same flank in an attacking role.

 

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