SHAKHTAR DONETSK take on Wolfsburg in the second leg of their Europa League Last 16 fixture on Wednesday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) shares his verdict.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Wolfsburg | Wednesday 5th August 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
The Europa League is back and there’s a tasty offering in Ukraine on Wednesday evening, where Shakhtar Donetsk host Wolfsburg in Kiev.
It’s the Ukrainian champions who have the advantage after winning the first leg 2-1 in the Volkswagen Arena. Goals in each half from Junior Moraes and Marcos Antonio helped to secure the vital win.
But that only tells half of the story with both sides spurning golden opportunities from the penalty spot. Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels denied Viktor Kovalenko’s effort before Wout Weghorst slipped in his run-up and skied his attempt.
If Weghorst had scored it would have made it 1-1 meaning the second half might have had a completely different dynamic. But Wolfsburg only had to wait three minutes after the break, as John Brooks headed home from Josip Brekalo’s corner.
Given how open that game was with UEFA’s stats recording 27 attempts, 10 of which were on target then this second leg is likely to follow a similar pattern, especially with the visitors having to take a few risks for them to get back level on aggregate.
Getting back to action
The Bundesliga was the first league to return and Wolfsburg’s 4-0 home defeat on 26th June was their final competitive game. That means the side have had to play friendlies to prepare themselves for this stern test. Wolfsburg played out a 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig last week, and coach Oliver Glasner reported he was “very satisfied”.
Die Wölfe will be without Renato Steffen through suspension, after his caution in the first leg. They’ve also been forced to leave behind Kevin Mbabu, who tested positive for Coronavirus last week, while Paulo Otavio remains out forcing Glasner into changes.
Shakhtar have now won nine of the last 11 Ukrainian Premier League titles, and they wrapped up their latest trophy with five games to spare giving Luis Castro the chance to rest key players ahead of this second leg.
The Ukrainians have already qualified for next season’s Champions League following their league crown, but Castro is aiming to complete the double. And, they do have European pedigree after lifting the UEFA Cup in 2008/09 – they beat German opposition in the final – Werder Bremen.
Hirnyky (The Miners) have a firm grip on this tie with their lead and with recent competitive game time under their belts, then that sharpness should see them get over the line.
Go for goals
Given what happened in this first leg, and the usual thought that a second leg is more open with one team usually chasing, then that leads me straight into the goals markets. To put it into context, as this stage last year, there were 22 goals across the first legs with an increase to 26 in the reverse fixtures.
As stated above, there were numerous chances in that first leg with 27 shots, 10 of which were on target. Shakhtar won the Expected Goals (xG) battle 1.73 xG to Wolfsburg’s 1.49 xG, and despite having fewer attempts, more of them hit the target to their German counterparts.
Although they don’t play home games in Donetsk, Shakhtar have made Kiev feel like home. In the league, they went without defeat in 16 league games (W14-D2-L0), and in this competition have already seen off Benfica 2-1.
Wolfsburg finished the Bundesliga season quite strongly on their travels losing just one of eight. This run started in February with a 4-2 win at Paderborn, and they went on to bag 19 goals – an average of 2.3 per game.
Die Wölfe have netted in each of their nine games in the Europa League this season, and they did beat Ukrainian side Oleksandria twice, so given their exploits in front of goal, Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals at evens (SkyBet) is well worth having on side.
Slovakian Ivan Kružliak is the man in charge. At the time of writing, only Sky Bet and William Hill have cards markets available, and both of those have the prices as expected given the officials make-up.
He’s shown 19 yellows and two reds across four European club games and averages 28 fouls per game, so he is fairly strict making cards markets look appealing if the price is right.
However, it’s just the evens play on Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals that takes the eye in what should be an open, end-to-end game.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Wolfsburg – Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals (1/1 SkyBet)