Champions League Tactical Analysis: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund

The Champions League is back & we're into the knockout stages which invariably produces intriguing tactical battles. We analyze each game and continue with Shakhtar vs Dortmund...

By Shikharr Chandra

Shakhtar Donetsk take on Borussia Dortmund at home for the first leg of this Round of 16 tie in the Champions League. Both teams have progressed from difficult groups with Dortmund having to contest with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City while Shakhtar had Chelsea and Juventus to deal with. They both play with a high-tempo and are guilty of some questional defending this season. It promises to be an enthralling encounter.


How Shakhtar Attack
How Dortmund Defend
Shakhtar, just like Dortmund, will stick with their 4-2-3-1 formation. Mircea Lucescu will hope his side can take advantage of Dortmund's dismal show against Hamburg which saw the Germans lose 4-1 at home. With Willian moving to Anzhi Makhachkala, the outstanding attacking threat the Ukrainians boasted has taken a major set-back but they are still capable of producing some good flowing football. The presence of Fernandinho has been the key to Shakhtar's outstanding display in the Champions League this season as his Yaya Toure-esque runs from the center of the midfield has often led to goals and trouble the opposition defense.

The attacking trio of Henrikh Mkhitarian, Alex Texeira and Taison along with Luiz Adriano up-front could be the key for the Ukrainians. Shakhtar full backs Rat and Srna are also capable of initiating attacks from the wings as both of them are very good crossers of the ball and with a towering center forward in the line-up, Lucescu can try out an alternative if his central midfield fails at any point.
Dortmund will be looking to put aside their disappointing league season so far that has seen them 15 points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich. The German giants have conceded 26 goals this season and 7 in their last 3 games.

The Yellow and Blacks are expected to line-up with the experienced pairing of Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels with Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer in the full back position supported by Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender in the central midfield. Dortmund will need to keep note of the attacking threat Shakhtar posses from the wings which might lead to both Schmelzer and Piszczek's attacking duties getting cut. Gundogan and Bender can also provide some defensive cover when coming up against the likes of Luiz Adriano and Mkhitarian. Dortmund will need their center back pairing to keep note of Fernandinho who has been outstanding from the midfield this season. 

Note: Gundogan hasnt travelled with the squad to Ukraine and Schmelzer might face a late fitness test. If Schmelzer doesnt make it its likely that Sven Bender might play there.

How Shakhtar Defend
How Dortmund Attack
Shakhtar's defense has been one of their weak points this season. As good as their attack has been in the Champions League, individual mistakes over the course of the tournament has seen them drop crucial points. Andriy Pyatov, Shakhtar's goal-keeper has been one of their key figures this season making some key saves over the course of the competition. Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Oleksandr Kucher are the most likely to pair-up in the central defense supported by Rat and Srna in the full back positions and Fernandinho and Stepanenko in the central midfield. Also the presence of Texeira and Taison will track back and add to the numbers in defense. What the Ukranians need to be wary about is the quality of wingers Dortmund possess and both the Shakhtar full backs will need to be disciplined while going forward and tracking back during counter attacks. Despite being away from home you would expect Jurgen Klopp to stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Borussia Dortmund's attacking four is arguably one of the finest in European football today and something Shakhtar will need to stop if they want to have a chance of progressing. Dortmund's main attacking threat has been from their right flank which has seen them get 36% of their goals. They will know that Shakhtar have an equally good central midfield so it makes perfect sense for the Germans to attack Shakhtar's flanks. One of the key areas they can take advantage of is the eagerness of the Shakhtar full backs to move forward. Rat and Srna have often been caught out of position in this season's Champions League which has left the defense wide open on numerous occasions and the fact that Dortmund's attacks have mainly come from the wings is surely an advantage for the German champions. Also the presence of Polish full back Piszczek will be the key when moving forward as the right-back has assisted 4 goals in the league this season and has been a potent figure for the Germans when counter-attacking.



Strengths –

Shakhtar:  They have a formidable front three in Luiz Adriano, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Teixeira. The trio along with former star Willian were key to the Ukranian side's progression into the next round of the Champions League and along with the presence of Fernandinho in the center of the midfield, Dortmund will know they can't afford to leave spaces in the midfield. Their composed but quick and decisive passing against Chelsea is something the Germans will be wary of.

Dortmund:  Arguably the strongest part in that Dortmund side is the attacking threat of Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. The four attackers have bagged a total of 38 goals in the league this season. The double pivot of Sven Bender and Gundogan have been the key for the German side while going back as well as starting the attack and with the return of forgotten hero Nuri Sahin, the midfield looks an even better prospect for the German Champions.

Weaknesses –

Shakhtar:  The absence of their winger Willian shall come to hurt them. The Brazilian has been instrumental in their side's excellent form this season and with him leaving the club, there will be a huge gap for Mircea Lucescu to fill in. However, their defending is also a cause for concern and they'll need to do a lot better against the Bundesliga champions.

Dortmund: They have not won a Champions League knockout tie since 1998 and the expectation and pressure to overcome that disappointing run could play a key role in this game. Also the fact that Dortmund's inability to hang onto their lead could play a huge role and although the Germans will be playing away from home, losing the lead is never good especially in a knockout tie. Another factor is the manner in which they leave themselves open to the counter-attack. Shakhtar have the pace to hit them on the break.

Shakhtar Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Dortmund Key Player: Marco Reus
The pressure will be on fellow Brazilian Luiz Adriano to live upto the standards left by his countrymen in this season's Champions League. The Brazilian has scored 3 goals in 5 Champions League games this season and although all of his goals came against FC Nordsjaelland, the striker did play a key role in his side's impressive 2-1 win over European Champions Chelsea at Ukraine. The Brazilian has scored 10 goals in 17 appearances this season and although his league form has not been that great with just 4 goals this season the striker's pace and aerial ability is something Shakhtar will look forward to utilising. Referred to as "Rolls Reus" by many, Marco Reus has been one of the star performers not only in the Bundesliga but in the UEFA Champions League as well. Signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach at the start of the season to replace the void left by Shinji Kagawa, Reus has been one of the outstanding figures in the young Dortmund side. There were question marks as to whether the German could adjust to Jurgen Klopp's playing style but with 8 goals already in the league in addition to 3 in the Champions League, Reus presence has been enormous for the German Champions. The midfielder played a key role in Dortmund's vital wins over Real Madrid and Manchester City in the group stages that saw the German club top their group. Combining well with fellow German Mario Goetze both have them have formed a formidable partnership in the midfield.

Who do you think will win this tie? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @ShikharrC.

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Gundogan hasnt travelled with the squad to ukraine. And schmelzer might face a late fitness test. U cud add a note like how brendon has done for the madrid-united article on alonso. If schmelzer doesnt make it its likely that sven bender might play there.