The first leg between Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk was fantastic, and proved just how good these supposed second-tier teams of the competition really are, with everything quite possible in the second leg of the knockout stage, although the home side do seem to have an advantage.
No matter how they change the system in the Ukrainian and Russian football leagues – the winter break hurts them more severely than the Western European teams; friendlies do not have the same effect as regular competition matches do, and while Shakhtar have been fantastic in all six matches they’ve played prior to the round of 16, Borussia Dortmund proved to be a different beast in the first leg.
Both teams have no one missing, and the interesting thing about both sides is that they play very similarly in home & away matches, meaning we’re likely to see more than one goal or two in the match, although the departure of Willian has hurt the offensive flow for Donetsk, with Taison not looking, at the moment, as capable in the passing game or in dribbling like the man sold to Anzhi, while adding more in terms of speed and work rate.
For Dortmund, their record is on their side – despite falling well behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and getting knocked out of the Cup, they haven’t lost once in the Champions League, looking very good in every match they’ve played. Their key, as always, will be the combination of Marco Reus and Mario Gotze; Gotze is involved in four of Dortmund’s last six goals in the Champions League (one goal, three assists). Reus has scored three goals in the competition this season, but all of them have come on away matches.
Again, Donetsk are confident that regardless of the away match, they’ll be able to get on the scoresheet at least once, failing to score only once in their last 11 away fixtures in the Champions League.
Prediction – Dortmund are the slightly better side, and should have just about enough to edge through a very tough opponent. However, settling for a draw will not be the way to go about it, and if Dortmund do not look for the goal and advance by winning, we’ll probably see Shakhtar going through.