Champions League: Is Barcelona Vs. Shakhtar the Real Glamour Tie of the Round?
The whole world knows about Barcelona’s wonderful attacking ability. The way this Barcelona team have evolved from the team Frank Rijkaard left to what they have become now has been fascinating.
A team that functions as a unit to win the ball back and break teams down to light up a scoreboard with some of the most breathtaking football is something everyone should have the pleasure of watching.
But what about their opponents?
Many would have thought that Barcelona had struck lucky when they managed to avoid European powers like Manchester United, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in the quarterfinal draw. But the fact is they could be looking at a very tricky tie against a team who could be considered their Eastern European counterparts.
Shakhtar Donetsk also boast a fantastic array of attacking talent. The likes of Brazilians Douglas Costa and William and Luiz Adriano, coupled with the experienced leader Darijo Srna, could cause a massive upset across Europe and dent the favourites’ hopes of another treble.
Shakhtar, current defending champions of the Ukrainian Premier League, will go into this game with no fear. They’ve proven in the past that they can handle the pressures of the European stage, winning the 2009 UEFA Cup.
Domestically they are flying ahead of nearest rivals Dynamo Kiev and have scored an outstanding 46 league goals with only nine conceded.
The team have also gone the past 18 months without a home defeat in their impressive new Donbass Arena. They will surely look to use this as a foundation in an attempt to take apart a Barcelona side who have a poor away record in the Champions League under Pep Guardiola.
What can we expect from the game?
It should come as no surprise that many will expect Barcelona to dominate possession over both legs. Of course they will look to dictate the tempo of the game from their midfield engine room and will try to take apart the Shakhtar defence with an early goal.
Shakhtar, however, will find most of their joy on the counter attack. Their pacey Brazilians will be key for them if they are looking to take anything from the game. They have a wonderful combination of attacking talent who play a very similar brand of football to Barcelona.
Fast, accurate, counter-attacking and finishing are components that make up this Shakhtar team. In Douglas Costa, William and co. we are looking at the prospect of a group of players who could cause Barcelona a lot of problems over two legs and more so than any of the teams they have faced so far.
Barcelona have of course proved their attacking style does have its flaws. The team can be led to open themselves up in the defence and create room due to their attack minded fullbacks.
If Guardiola opts for Sergio Busquets in midfield, his role will be integral in keeping Barcelona in control of the tie and stopping the attacking threat from taking advantage of any space.
The footballing world have definitely let this one slip under the radar due to other big ties in the round. But the attacking football that will be on display in these ties will be unquestionable.
Both teams are fearless going forward. They are both built on a foundation of technical, attacking football and players such as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta may again come up against players who are capable of playing close to their level of attacking flair.
There is no doubt for me this is the tie of the round. Pep Guardiola has urged caution from his players and the media who are quick to suggest a Madrid vs. Barca semifinal. The fact is his team, who do have their injury concerns, must face a team who are high on confidence and who know how to score.
We could be looking at a massive upset in the Champions League quarterfinals if Shakhtar Donetsk have their way.
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