Manchester City travel to Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk in Wednesday’s Champions League opener with several objectives in mind, chief of which would be to bounce back from their shock defeat to Norwich.
The Citizens looked shaky at the back, scattergun in midfield and unusually timid in attack as their newly promoted opponents claimed a shock 3-2 victory on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men will however look to take confidence from the fact that that loss was just their second defeat in 29 fixtures in all competitions. More so when up against a Shakhtar Donetsk that City thrashed home and away at the same stage last year.
The English champions are the clear favourites to return to form with a victory at the Metalist Stadium but Castro’s men will have other ideas in front of their vociferous supporters.
Shakhtar romped to the Ukrainian Premier League title, winning by a 9 point margin last season but Manchester City undoubtedly pose a much more tangible threat than any of their domestic opposition.
Events at Carrow Road over the weekend showed that there are defensive weaknesses to be exploited in this City side but the big headache for the Ukrainian champions is how to contain an attack that put nine goals past them over two matches last season.
Maycon, Andrii Totovytskyi, Maksym Malyshev and Oleksandr Pikhalionk and Davit Khocholava are all ruled out through injury for the home side.
Guardiola has been hit by fresh injury news about Stones with the defender reportedly set to be out for at least four weeks. The manager decided to leave Phil Foden out of the travelling squad due to a lack of fitness.
Both Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte are long-term absentees.
Fortunately for the visitors, Benjamin Mendy could be in line for a first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury.
The Miners have won each of their seven league matches so far this campaign.
Two of the hosts’ last three home matches in this competition have resulted in draws.
More than three goals have been scored in Shakhtar’s last three matches and in all of City’s last five games.
Last season’s group stage meetings between these sides saw Manchester City win both matches by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0.
Shakhtar’s only success against The Citizens came on match-day 6 of the 2017/18 campaign against a heavily rotated squad.
Pep Guardiola’s men have been responsible for 3 of Shakhtar’s 5 defeats in the last 2 seasons of Champions League football.
Another routine win for the visitors with three goals or more scored.