The final day of the group stage features a Group E matchup between Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Italian champions Juventus. Both teams control their own destiny in advancing to the knockout stage, thus eliminating current European title holders Chelsea.
Shakhtar sits top of the table in Group E, with 10 points, one better than Juventus and three better than Chelsea. The Hirnyky have been a pleasant surprise in the competition, winning supporters while playing some very attractive football.
Brazilian winger Willian Borges da Silva leads the club with 4 goals in the Champions League, using his pace and artistry along the flank, to confound defenders. He has been mentioned to be on the Brazil team in the 2014 World Cup and this competition will go a long way in determining his future on the international stage.
Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the talismanic figure for Shakhtar. Mkhitaryan leads the club with 19 goals in all competitions, to go with providing quality service, to his strikers. Mkhitaryan is one of the most underrated players in the world, but if Shakhtar goes on a long European run, he will receive more attention.
Captain Darijo Srna patrols the back four. The Croatian International, is a sturdy presence, who is adept at set pieces and crosses. It isn’t unusual to see Srna surge up the right flank, but since goals aren’t necessary for Shakhtar, expect Srna to sit back and defend.
Expect Andriy Pyatov to start between the sticks for Shakhtar. The Ukraine International has had troublesome moments, particularly in a fixture against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where he conceded two howlers in Shakhtar’s only loss in the competition. Pyatov would love to get a clean sheet in this match, to restore his confidence.
For Juventus, a draw would most likely send them to the knockout stage, but a victory would give them the group and a better draw in the knockout stage. How they will approach this game remains a question mark.
Manger Angelo Alessio is coy about his team sheet but he does have options up front. Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco or Mirko Vucninc could start for The Old Lady. All three have been productive for Juventus and all deserve a spot on the roster. It is most probable that Quagliarella will get the start, as he did not see the pitch in the club’s 3-0 victory over Torino over the weekend.
Arturo Vidal should start as an attacking midfielder for Juventus. The Chilean International, was rested over the weekend, so he could be fully fit for this fixture. Vidal is a versatile performer, who Shakhtar need to keep in check.
Andrea Pirlo is an ageless wonder for Juventus. At age 33, Pirlo continues to dazzle and dominate in the midfield. He is the best player in Italian football right now, and shows no signs of slowing down.
With Juventus needing to keep a clean sheet, the back four of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Paolo de Ceglie will need to be stern and steady. They were brilliant in the club’s 3-0 thrashing over Chelsea, not giving the Blues attackers any space or time. A similar performance will see Juventus through to the knockout stage.
The last line of defence is keeper Gianluigi Buffon. One of the best in the word, Buffon has recorded clean sheets in the last two European fixtures for Juventus. A calm presence, Buffon will be ready for this one.
Not expecting much here. A draw will do for both sides. Juventus have a healthy advantage over Chelsea in goal difference and a draw will do them nicely. Shakhtar will also play for a draw since that is all they need to clinch the group. Expect pragmatic, stoic football that won’t be very entertaining, but it will be necessary for both sided. A goalless draw is the pick, with both sides advancing to the knockout stage.
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