Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma: Hosts to put Roma to the sword

Donetsk manager Paulo Fonseca kept to a promise that he'd wear a Zorro mask if his side beat Manchester City. He might be wearing it again on Wednesday night.
Donetsk manager Paulo Fonseca kept to a promise that he'd wear a Zorro mask if his side beat Manchester City. He might be wearing it again on Wednesday night.
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Roma are in red-hot form but may just be cooled down by the Ukranian winter when they travel to Shakhtar Donetsk. The hosts have an excellent home record in this competition and look good value to draw first blood, says Jamie Pacheco.

"...So all things considered, it’s highly unlikely they’ll win this just 1-0. So if you believe they might take a first leg lead here you’re better off taking the price of 11/5 on Betfair Sportsbook that they’ll win with over 1.5 goals in the game."

Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma
Wednesday February 21 19:45 GMT
Live on BT Sport 3

The Brazilians who relish the cold

It's always a source of much debate. Are you better off having a winter break and going straight into Champions League action 'fresh'? Or is there a bit of a danger you're actually a little under-cooked and not quite ready for the intensity of a match against one of Europe's elite?

We'll have to wait and see but that's the situation facing Shakhtar Donetsk. Not that a home match against Chornomorets Odessa is a particularly good yardstick for where they are right now but they won that 5-0 at the weekend, their first game in over two months.

If you're not too familiar with their squad, it's understandably mostly made up of Ukranian players joined by a curious mix of Argentinian and Brazilian exports, clearly not afraid of enduring the harsh Ukranian winter. That includes midfielder Fred, capped six times by Brazil and a Man City target in the January transfer window, fellow countryman Canarinho Taison who's an attacking midfielder and yet another Brazilian in Marlos, who's been in good scoring form all season and notched two in that weekend win.

They will however have to make do without the incredibly experienced Dario Srna. The Croatian rightback/winger, who has made over 300 appearances for the club and was capped 134 times for Croatia, is suspended after failing a doping test.

City old boys in fine form

Roma are in a very respectable third place in Serie A on 50 points. That means they're out of the title race but in a three-way battle for a Top four finish with Lazio and Inter.

Crucially, they come into this match in good form, having won their last three Serie A games. This is familiar territory for them, having made the Last 16 of the Champions League in six of the last seven times they've been in the competition.

Former Manchester City duo Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko have been two of the star performers this season and they're also enjoying the benefits of having a fully-fit Kevin Strootman to count on.

Luca Pellegrini and Rick Karsdrop miss out with injury.

Hosts deadly on home soil

It's not hard to make a case for a Shakhtar first leg win. They won all three of their home games and you could argue that Man City and Napoli are tougher opponents (Feyenoord were the other team in the group) than Roma. Shakhtar by the way have good memories of facing Roma in the competition, especially at this stage of the competition. Back in 2010/11 they beat them 6-2 on aggregate as Opta remind us.

They've also won three of their four games against Roma in the Champions League and whereas it's always easy to question the relevance of matches played years ago, it will surely weigh on the players' mind to some extent.

But of far greater importance is the hosts' excellent home record in the Group Stages. 2.568/5 looks an attractive price. The draw is 3.412/5 but another Opta stat suggests that's unlikely- they haven't drawn any of their last 13 in the competition. A Roma win is 3.185/40.

But we can do better than the straight win. Every single one of Shakhtar's six Champions League games had at least two goals, as have 18 of their 20 games in all competitions this season. We're also reminded by Opta that they have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 so all things considered, it's highly unlikely they'll win this just 1-0. So if you believe they might take a first leg lead here you're better off taking the price of 11/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook that they'll win with over 1.5 goals in the game.

Put your money on Marlos

Facundo Ferreira tops the Ukranian goalscorer charts with 15 for the season and has two in this competition already. He's 15/8 to get one here after scoring two in that 5-0 win. But countryman Marlos seems to be even sharper after the winter break. Remarkably, he had a hand in all five goals on Friday, scoring two and assisting three. "We had been practicing the moves for the goals we scored during the winter break, so it's great we managed to convert them," the midfielder said. Well, let's hope he converts one of his chances on Wednesday night because he's worth backing at 12/5.

For Roma, Turkish wonderkid Cenzig Under is 3/1 to score at anytime with Dzeko understandably the shortest price player from Roma at 15/8. But don't rule out Kolarov. He loves getting forward at any opportunity and delivering thunderbolts from set-pieces and left flank raids. He's 15/2 to score anytime and 19/1 to score first.

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