City will look to follow up their shock defeat to Norwich City in the league by going in the only direction possible: up. There is no time to sit and mull over the result, with the Champions League Group Stages starting up this week.
Up first, a trip to face well known foes FC Shakhtar Donetsk. We will look at what to expect from the Ukrainian Champions and how City will fare as they attempt to get their Champions League exploits off on the right foot.
Lineup and Formation
Luis Castro has come in this past summer from Vitoria de Guimaraes in Portugal. He has his side currently holding a perfect record in the league, on 21 points. His preferred formation of use is the 4-2-3-1 formation in Shakhtar’s league matches, and that should carry over into this week’s Champions League match. Mykola Matviyenko and Sergey Kryvtsov will hold the central defensive positions in front of Andriy Pyatov. Ismaily and Sergiy Bolbat should occupy the fullback positions.
Ahead of these five, Alan Patrick and Taras Stepanenko will form the base of midfield, allowing Taison, Marlos, and Tete the freedom to express themselves higher up the pitch. These three have the ability to interchange and give City problems in terms of marking them out of the match. Up top, Junior Moraes will be tasked with leading the line.
Strengths and Tactics
The biggest area of concern for City should be Shakhtar’s speed and ability on the ball. The Ukrainian giants undoubtedly have the quality to put City to the sword if the same individual mistakes we saw against Norwich continue to pop up. In the league, Shakhtar are a dominant side who like to keep the ball. They hold an average of 63.5% possession, and maintain a 91% passing accuracy on 645 attempts per match.
That being said, Wednesday will most likely look different. Shakhtar should respect City’s gulf in class and tweak their approach, as they have done in recent history. Look for the hosts to sit deep and defend in a low block. Once possession is regained, we are likely to see them attempt to build-up from the back, trying to give their players rest from the copious amount of defending they will undoubtedly do. Alternatively, the three attacking midfielders will be looking for opportunities to press City’s defense into making mistakes, and using their abilities to have success on the counter. The starters at fullback will have an important job on their hands trying to contain these attackers.
The most likely weak point Shakhtar will have will be the same as previous seasons. The difference in quality of the teams, mixed with the lack of quality Shakhtar have to consistently test themselves against in preparation for matches like this. Watching film and doing the necessary research on your opposition is essential, but at the end of the day, the best way to train and prepare is to experience.
On the flip side of the front three’s attacking ability, they are not the most defensively disciplined. City’s fullbacks and midfielders have found success in previous encounters utilising the half spaces in front of the defensive line that the Shakhtar’s attacking players leave unoccupied as they are worrying about the potential to get a counter.
The Xtra View
City must look at this game as the perfect opportunity for quick redemption. The defeat at the weekend will undoubtedly have left a sour taste in the mouths of the players and manager, and what better way to fix that than to turn it right around.
Hopefully Oleksandr Zinchenko can get the homecoming he missed out on last season, and City can walk away with a comfortable 4-0 victory. Fernandinho should come into the centre of defence and show what an asset he will be there in Aymeric Laporte’s absence.
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