Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City | Wednesday 18th September 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
Man City commence their latest attempt at Champions League glory when making the trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk. It is a journey that they are used to making, having done so in each of the last two years.
Pep Guardiola’s men are looking to bounce back from their shock away defeat to Norwich City at the weekend, whilst Shakhtar maintained their 100% start to the Ukrainian Premier League after a last gasp 4-3 home win over Zorya.
Shakhtar in transition
Firstly, let’s focus on the Ukrainian outfit. Paulo Fonseca ended his three-year stint with the club this summer when taking up the job in Serie A with Roma after winning seven titles. He was replaced by another Portuguese coach in the form of Luis Castro, formally of Vitoria Guimaraes. It was a defeat in his first match in the Super Cup to rivals Dynamo Kiev, but they’ve won every game since.
However, they’ve not been their usual dominant selves in that time. Certainly not by the standards we have come to expect. Sure, we have a 5-1 and 4-0 win tucked in there, but it was a 4-3 thriller at the weekend and needed a very late winner to secure that.
I just feel they are still finding their feet under a new coach, although they did manage to win away to Dynamo Kiev, which is traditionally their hardest fixture against their only real title contender.
Pep’s men a point to prove
Man City as we all know suffered defeat at Carrow Road on Saturday. Guardiola however was quite pleased with how they played, but defensively they were all over the shop. Travelling to Donetsk you would worry if they were to repeat that kind of showing in their own half, but on the flip side you just wonder if the Ukrainian team are about to feel the bull backlash of the Premier League champions.
Norwich are the first side to score at least three goals past City in a league game since Crystal Palace defeated them at the Etihad back in December. They actually followed that up with another defeat in Leicester, but did beat Liverpool a few weeks after, which proved a massive win come the end of the season.
Of course, the blue side of Manchester are desperate to prove themselves in this competitive, maybe even more so after Liverpool and Tottenham did so well last season.
City good for goals
One thing City have is a goal threat. There is a big reliance on Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, as they’ve combined for 12 of the 16 league goals their side has scored so far. However, you just know Pep will have his men fired up for this one after the Norwich setback. It is key they start off this group with a flyer, as this is arguably the toughest game they’ll have.
City do generally past these kind of away assignments in the UCL. They won at this ground as recently as October by a 3-0 score, plus they’ve been to Napoli, Feyenoord, Basel, Hoffenheim and Schalke in the last few years and got the job done on the road.
The betting angle
I do think Man City are the team to side with here. It is a potential banana skin but I actually think the Norwich game might help them. Having a game so quick is another positive, even if a long journey across Europe, but Pep loves these type of games.
Man City HT/FT pays 19/20 (Coral) and I’m banking that mostly on City flying out of the traps. Another tentative pick is for them to notch at least three goals, which is a handy 11/10 (SkyBet) play. They’ve done this in five of their last eight in this competition, over arguably stronger opposition.
City have a point to prove, and Shakhtar could feel the wrath.