Chelsea can expect a difficult evening as they head to Ukraine for a potentially vital matchup with Shakhtar Donetsk. Both sides sit on four points alongside Juventus at the top of Group E and the results in the double header between Chelsea and Shakhtar will go a long way to deciding which side makes the knockout phase.
Shakhtar has put together a stunning sequence of results this season, winning all 12 of their matches in the league and recording a hugely creditable draw away to Juventus in their last European outing.
Traditionally, though, the strength of Shakhtar has been their home form. Indeed, in four matches played in Donetsk against English opposition, Shakhtar have recorded three wins and a draw.
One member of Mircea Lucescu’s side will have very personal motivation going up against the current European champions. Brazilian attacking midfielder Willian was reportedly the target of bids from Chelsea both in January and this summer, with Lucescu claiming that the Premier League outfit undervalued the 24-year-old.
“They didn't even get anywhere near to our requirements, having done nothing to make my promises to Willian come true,” said the Romanian, who had given Willian assurances he could leave if the right offer arrived, according to ESPN.
“I would really like them to highly appreciate his true value tomorrow and realize that they made a big mistake, he added.”
In truth, though, Chelsea have shown few signs of missing Willian so far this season. The attacking midfield trio of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard has helped turn Chelsea into an eye-catching side going forward.
This transition from the physical, defensive outfit of last season was again in evidence on Saturday as the Premier League leaders continued their impressive results with a Juan-Mata-inspired 4-2 win at Tottenham.
Roberto Di Matteo will be able to welcome back John Terry into his defense, with the Blues captain serving a domestic suspension. Terry’s availability means that Chelsea, like Shakhtar, will have a full squad from which to choose.
Shakhtar Donetsk (probable)
D: Srna, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Rat
M: Fernandinho, Hubschman
Ilsinho, Mkhitaryan, Willian
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Prediction: With plenty of talent on both sides, it promises to be an entertaining matchup. Chelsea are unlikely to be too adventurous, against opponents who they would be loathed to underestimate, and will rely on the creativity supplied by their offensive midfielders. For that reason, experienced Czech Tomas Hubschman will have a big role for Shakhtar in front of the back four. Ultimately, both sides may accept walking away from the match with a point.
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Chelsea
Where to watch: The Champions League Group E contest kicks-off from the Donbass Arena at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available via FoxSoccer2Go.