Manchester City start yet another attempt to win European football’s biggest prize when they travel to the Ukraine to face Shakhtar on Wednesday.
Last season’s Champions League foray ended with the usual disappointment for Manchester City, but this time in the most dramatic of fashions. They slip out on away goals to eventual finalists Spurs due to some VAR antics and the away goals rule. This season they start again and will have wished for an easy trip to start the competition. They are in Group C along with Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar, an easier set of opponents than some of England’s other representatives.
The trip to Kharkiv is arguably the hardest game of the group stage for the English champions. Playing Atalanta will also prove difficult. But in a group that does not contain any other accepted European giants, City will be expected to qualify with ease and, if everything goes according to plan, unbeaten.
When is Home vs Away and where can I watch live? H2
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Venue: Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv, Ukraine
Date: Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Kick-off: 8:00 PM BST
TV coverage (UK): BT Sport 3; Live stream: BT Sport Live (UK); Bleacher Report Live (USA)
Last four meetings: Shakhtar Donetsk v Man City
26, September 2017: Man City 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League)
06, December 2017: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Man City (Champions League)
23, October 2018: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City (Champions League)
07, November 2018: Man City 6-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League)
Aggregate Score: Shakhtar Donetsk (LLWL) 1-12 Man City (WWLW)
Ones to watch
Shakhtar Donetsk: Junior Moraes
The Brazilian-born forward’s goalscoring record for Shakhtar speaks for itself, and he is now a part of the Ukrainian national set-up after being granted earlier this year.
If he can find the net on the international stage as regularly as he does for Shakhtar, Ukraine could have some player on their hands. Last season he bagged 19 goals in just 27 appearances in the top flight.
Key stat: Shakhtar have won seven out of seven in the domestic league, with Moraes averaging a goal per game.
Manchester City: Raheem Sterling
It is hard to remember a time when Raheem Sterling was not continuously improving. The England star has been in exceptional form with eight goals in eight games for club and country this season, and he will be hard to stop on Wednesday night.
Sterling looks a threat every time he gets on the ball. Already in the Premier League alone, he has found the net five times and could be on target for yet another record-breaking season.
Key stat: Only Sergio Aguero (3.8) has had more shots per game than Raheem Sterling (3.6) for Manchester City this season.
Maycon will not be back in time for the Ukrainian outfit after needing surgery while Maksym Malyshev and Andriy Totovytskyi are both doubtful.
Long-term absentee Oleksandr Pikhalyonok will not be involved after suffering an ACL injury back in August.
Predicted XI: Pyatov; Bolbat, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Ismaily; Stepanenko, Patrick; Konoplyanka, Marlos, Taison; Moraes.
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It was announced on Tuesday afternoon that John Stones will be out for up to five months after sustaining a muscular injury in training.
Upon disclosing the news to his media conference, Pep Guardiola said: “For me as a manager it is an incredible challenge. But I believe in something people don’t know about – spirit and commitment. We will make steps forward to solve this problem.”
There were already suggestions Fernandinho would come into City’s central defence, so we should now expect to see a combination of the Brazilian and Nicolas Otamendi. There is also academy product Eric Garcia, though he is yet to play a Premier League game even.
Guardiola has a few other injury concerns, the most pressing of which is Aymeric Laporte. The French defender looks set to miss substantial game time after suffering a knee injury, and his absence was very notable in the defeat at Norwich.
City will also be without Leroy Sane and Bernard Mendy for the trip to Kharkiv.
Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, D. Silva; B. Silva, Agüero, Sterling.
How will Manchester City react to the defeat at Carrow Road? That is the key question everybody is asking and with good reason. With Laporte out injured and Kompany gone, City looked vulnerable and the Canaries took full advantage.
The Champions League is always a step up from domestic football. But although City have really struggled to convert their Premier League dominance into success in Europe, they recorded 13 points and the joint-best goal difference in 2018/19’s group stage – in which they also had a similar group.
Speaking of which, they have a massive advantage over a Shakhtar side that is a far cry from the glory days, one they in fact beat 9-0 across their two meetings in the previous campaign.
Pep’s side cannot be complacent, but Given the form of Raheem Sterling, there is unlikely to be an upset so we are going for a comfortable City win.
Scoreline prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Manchester City