SOCCER | CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Real Madrid face the Shakhtar Samba boys
Real Madrid travel to face Shakhtar Donetsk at the NSC Olimpiyskiy in Kiev on Tuesday as Los Blancos look to put the shock defeat to Sheriff behind them.
Nobody expected minions Sheriff to beat the 13-time European Champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu, perhaps not even Sheriff themselves. But a stunning late goal by Sébastian Thill secured a 2-1 victory for the Moldovan club, thus making Madrid’s trip to face Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday all the more decisive.
Having won their first game against Inter Milan, Los Blancos sit second in the table with three points behind Sheriff on six points. While it wouldn’t call for panic stations, anything less than a win could potentially take Madrid’s qualifying hopes out of their own hands, a scenario that would depend on Inter beating Sheriff in Milan in the other Group D fixture (and convincingly should Madrid manage to earn a point in Kiev).
"We know it is a very important game. Especially because of the last game we lost at home. We don't have much more room to make mistakes,” said Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti ahead of Tuesday’s fixture.
Real Madrid look to Benzema and Vinicius
With the likes of Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio out, Karim Benzema and Vinicius will likely start up front with Rodrygo, with the veteran trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos behind them. There had been some injury concerns with Eder Militao and David Alaba after the pair had picked up knocks while on international duty with Brazil and Austria, respectively, but they now look set to start in the centre of defence.
Shakhtar’s Samba boys
Vinicius, Casemiro and Militao will likely be facing several of their compatriots, as Shakhtar's squad has a large Brazilian contingent. No less than seven Brazilians, Ismaily, Dodo, Santos, Solomon, Maycon, Pedrinho, Fernando, could all start on Tuesday against Madrid.
Shakhtar’s back-to-back wins over Madrid last season
This is the second consecutive season that Madrid and Shakhtar have met in the Champions League group stage, and let’s not forget that Donetsk, like Sheriff, pulled off a surprise 3-2 victory against the LaLiga giants at the Bernabéu last season, before securing another impressive win (2-0) at home.
Should Madrid lose again, it will be the first time that they have lost three consecutive Champions League games to the same opponent since Juventus between March 2005 and November 2008 (during a rather grey period for Los Blancos in which the club failed to pass the last-16 of the UCL for six consecutive seasons).
But with Benzema (with 10 goals in 10 games this season) on Ballon d’Or-contending form and Vincius (5 goals in 10 games) finally emerging as a force to be reckoned with this season, the pair will be tipped to find the goals necessary to secure victory against a struggling Shakhtar side languishing bottom of the table with one point from their first two games
Shakhtar Donetsk possible XI vs Real Madrid
Shakhtar XI: Pyatov, Ismaily, Marlon, Santos, Dodo, Stepanenko, Alan Patrick, Maycon, Solomon, Fenando, Pedrinho
Real Madrid possible XI vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid XI: Courtois, Lucas Vázquez, Militao, Alaba, Nacho, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid: Injuries and suspensions
Another of Shakhtar’s Samba Boy contingent, Júnior Moraes will miss the game through injury, as will Burkina Faso striker, Lassina Traore and center back Mykola Matvienko.
Ancelotti, meanwhile, will be without six key squad members in Dani Carvajal, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Isco, Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio.
Neither side has any suspended players for the meeting in Kiev.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid: What the managers said
Roberto De Zerbi (Shakhtar): “How can I not worry before the match against Real Madrid? Only an unwise person wouldn’t worry. I hope I'm smart enough. The major thing is to see our progress, how we have improved our level. That’s more important than just the result.”
Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid): “We know it is a very important game. Especially because of the last game we lost at home. We don't have much more room to make mistakes. We have to go in with confidence, with strength, giving everything, playing well ... We have not been at our best level in the last three games, but after the break we have trained well and are prepared.”