By Maura Gladys
In theory, all Shakhtar Donestsk has to do is hold Roma to one goal, and they’ll be through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in club history. But that might be easier said than done when the Pitmen face a rejuvenated Roma squad on Tuesday in Donestsk.
Shakhtar holds a 3-2 lead over Roma, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t maintain the impressive form that produced three goals at Stadio Olimpico in their February 16 meeting. The squad kicked off the second half of its Ukraine Premiere League campaign on March 3 with a 1-0 win over Sevastopol and with no major injuries to the squad, the Pitmen should enter Tuesday’s match healthy and motivated.
Roma is a different story. The team was close to imploding following their loss to Shakhtar three weeks ago. The center finally collapsed a few days later when they blew a 3-0 lead to lose to Genoa 4-3, which prompted Claudio Ranieri to step down as manager.
But under the guidance of new manager Vincenzo Montella, Roma has slowly begun to stop the bleeding. It’s currently on a three-game unbeaten streak with wins over Bologna and Lecce and a draw with Parma, and Roma’s players are optimistic going into Tuesday’s match.
It’s no secret that Roma will be out to score. Anything less than a two-goal victory would mean the Italian side fails to advance, so Roma will be pushing forward and putting immense amount of pressure on Shakhtar’s defense. Montella will likely employ a 4-2-3-1 formation and feature top scorers Marco Borriello, Mirko Vucinic and Francesco Totti.
But the Giallorossi is facing a tough task. Donbass Arena is a threatening place, (Shakhtar has not lost at home since October 22, 2008) especially when the temperature is supposed to be below freezing on Tuesday night. If Shakhtar can do what it does best, get numbers behind the ball and then stretch their opponents with quick counterattacks, they should hold on and advance.
Prediction: In what will be an exciting, but nerve-wracking game for Shakhtar fans, the Pitmen will lose 1-0, but hold on to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.