Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma preview: Visitors aim for strong start in tie
Last Updated: 21/02/18 8:33pm
Roma will be hoping to catch Shakhtar Donetsk cold when they meet in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
Shakhtar won the domestic double last season and are currently top of the Ukrainian Premier League, but have only recently returned to action after a two-month winter break.
"Shakhtar are a very strong side technically, but they have also played only once since their winter break," Roma striker Edin Dzeko told the club website.
"Because of this we might be a bit further along with our preparations, but we have to give everything."
Roma head into Wednesday's first leg in Kharkiv on the back of three straight Serie A wins, which have put them back on course for another top-four finish.
But Dzeko added: "Shakhtar, along with Liverpool (and Wigan), are the only teams who have beaten Manchester City this season - who at the moment might be the strongest side in Europe.
"Because of this we cannot take anything for granted, and give everything in both legs. The tie will be decided over 180 minutes, not just 90, so we must deliver in both games."
Shakhtar, who reached the last 16 by finishing behind Group F winners Manchester City and ahead of Serie A leaders Napoli, warmed up for Roma's visit by beating Chornomorets Odesa 5-0 in their first competitive outing of the year.
Paulo Fonseca's side won all their home games in the group stage, despite continuing to play 150 miles away from their home city of Donetsk due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Roma will be without Rick Karsdorp (knee), Maxime Gonalons (calf) and Luca Pellegrini (knee), while Alessandro Florenzi is doubtful due to illness.
Shakhtar skipper Darijo Srna is serving a suspension for a failed drugs test, but otherwise the Ukrainians are at full-strength.
Shakhtar have won three of their four competitive games against Roma (L1), all in the Champions League. Their only previous encounter in the knockout stages of the Champions League dates back to the round of 16 in 2010/11. The Ukrainian side won 6-2 on aggregate.
Shakhtar have reached the knockout stages in four of their last seven Champions League campaigns, their best performance dating back to 2010/11 when they beat Roma in the round of 16. In fact, Shakhtar have won only two of their eight Champions League knockout games (D2 L4), both of those coming against…Roma in 2010/11.
Meanwhile, Roma have made the knockout stages of the Champions League for the sixth time in their last seven participations. However, it's been 10 years since they last reached the quarter-finals (2007/08); in fact, Roma have lost seven of their last eight Champions League knockout games (W1).
Shakhtar have won their three home games in the Champions League so far this season, scoring at least 2 goals in each of their last five outings on home soil.
None of Shakhtar's last 13 Champions League games has ended in a draw (W5 L8), keeping only one clean sheet in that period.
Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 24 Champions League away games, their last shut-out dating back to March 2007 against Lyon (2-0). They have also won only one of their last 12 games on the road (D5 L6), it was against Qarabag last September (2-1).
I actually been watching quite a bit of Roma this season and think they're vastly improved. They threatened to get involved in the title race yet have dropped off in December and January.
I like a lot of what they're doing now they've eased Francesco Totti out. I said at the time all the top English sides should have been in for Dzeko when he appeared to be available in January. He's not got the pace everyone seems to demand but he's a fantastic finisher and he enjoys the big stages.
Charlie predicts: 1-1 and Dzeko to score first (25/1 with Sky Bet)