20/05/2024

Preview: Antwerp vs. Shakhtar - prediction, team news

Hace 8 meses

Preview: Antwerp vs. Shakhtar - prediction, team news

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Royal Antwerp and Shakhtar Donetsk, including predictions, team news and possible

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Royal Antwerp and Shakhtar Donetsk, including predictions, team news and possible

An early basement battle in Champions League Group H takes place at the Bosuilstadion on Wednesday, as Royal Antwerp meet Shakhtar Donetsk in matchweek two.

The hosts were crushed 5-0 by Barcelona on the opening matchday, while their Ukrainian counterparts were no match for Porto, going down 3-1 in Hamburg.


Match preview

Royal Antwerp coach Mark van Bommel before the match on September 19, 2023© Reuters

Due to ongoing renovations at Barcelona's iconic venue, there would be no memorable Camp Nou stopover for Antwerp in their inaugural Champions League group-stage match, as Mark van Bommel's men instead tried to pull off a giant killing at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

However, Joao Felix, Robert Lewandowski and a Jelle Bataille own goal saw Antwerp subjected to a European baptism of fire within the first quarter of the match, before Gavi also got his name on the scoresheet and Felix completed his brace in the second half of a five-star Blaugrana performance.

Since being given a rude awakening by the reigning La Liga champions, Antwerp - who overcame AEK Athens in the final qualifying round to write a new chapter of club history - have been steady, if yet incredibly unspectacular in the Jupiler Pro League, playing out three successive goalless stalemates.

RWDM, Gent and Mechelen have all kept Van Bommel's men at bay while failing to break down the Reds themselves, seeing Antwerp stretch their unbeaten domestic run to seven matches, but their attacking deficiencies of the past fortnight must be rectified lest they risk an early end to their European adventure.

Nevertheless, Antwerp's recent spate of dogged rearguard exploits sees the hosts welcome Shakhtar to the Bosuilstadion aiming for a sixth successive home clean sheet, and the Reds have only been beaten once at their headquarters in 2023 - a 1-0 loss to Sporting Charleroi back in March.

Shakhtar Donetsk coach Patrick Van Leeuwen before the match on September 19, 2023© Reuters

Locking horns on neutral ground while conflict continues to rage in Eastern Europe, the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg was the venue for Shakhtar's opening European battle with Porto, who subjected Patrick van Leeuwen's men to a decisive glut of first-half goals.

Galeno's first of the match was initially cancelled out by a Kevin Kelsy header, but Porto's Brazilian winger capitalised on a defensive blunder to double his tally for the evening before setting up Mehdi Taremi to round off the scoring before the half-hour mark.

That opening beating at the hands of the Portuguese powerhouses marked the start of a patchy run of form for Shakhtar, who only have one win to show from their last four matches in all tournaments and lost for the first time domestically this season on Saturday, suffering a 2-1 home beating at the hands of Vorskla Poltava.

Nevertheless, Wednesday's visitors can at least proudly claim to have scored in each of their last 37 competitive contests since being shut out by RB Leipzig in the Champions League 11 months ago, but at the other end of the field, Shakhtar have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last six top-level European affairs away from home.

Given Antwerp's lack of continental nous, Wednesday's game will unsurprisingly represent the first competitive meeting between the two Group H strugglers, but Shakhtar have only ever lost two of their 14 European battles with Belgian teams, and none since a 2002 Champions League qualifying exit to Club Brugge on penalties.

Royal Antwerp Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • L


Royal Antwerp form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • D


Shakhtar Donetsk Champions League form:
  • L


Shakhtar Donetsk form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L

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Team News

Shakhtar Donetsk's Kevin Kelsy celebrates scoring their first goal on September 19, 2023© Reuters

While Antwerp's egos may have been battered and bruised in Barcelona, Van Bommel did not have any fresh injury concerns to report from that drubbing - a scant consolation amid their ongoing fitness crisis.

A quartet of defenders in Samuel Vines, Bjorn Engels, Ritchie De Laet and Kobe Corbaine are all sidelined with various afflictions - leaving Van Bommel with few options for change at the back - while Swedish attacker Jacob Ondrejka completes the hosts' five-strong injury list.

All eyes will be on eighteen-year-old Arthur Vermeeren this week amid reports of interest from Manchester United and Barcelona, although he would have done his prospects of a big-money move no favours on matchday one.

Defensive injury woes are not just limited to Antwerp, as Shakhtar lost Israeli centre-back Stav Lemkin to an unspecified issue midway through the second half of their loss to Porto, and the 20-year-old was nowhere to be seen against Vorskla.

However, Mykola Matvienko recovered from an Achilles concern to make the bench in the visitors' most recent domestic affair, but striker Lassina Traore remains out of contention due to tendon trouble.

Matvienko's return to fitness could see Tanzanian defender Novatus Miroshi drop out of the backline, while 34-year-old Yaroslav Rakitskyi should also come back in for a man two years his senior in Dmytro Chygrynskyi.


Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
Butez; Bataille, Alderweireld, Coulibaly, Wijndal; Vermeeren, Keita; Kerk, Ekkelenkamp, Muja; Janssen

Shakhtar Donetsk possible starting lineup:
Riznyk; Konoplya, Rakitskyi, Matvienko, Azarovi; Sudakov, Stepanenko, Bondarenko; Zubkov, Kelsey, Sikan


SM words green background

We say: Royal Antwerp 0-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

Even Antwerp's recent streak of impressive defensive displays should count for little against a Shakhtar side who always find a way through the opposition's defence, even if they come out on the wrong end of the scoreline, as was the case a fortnight ago.

However, with several key players set to return to the XI against a Reds side lacking attacking inspiration, Shakhtar need only prolong their prolific streak in front of goal to emerge victorious and leave Antwerp still searching for their first group-stage point.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


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