Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City preview, betting tips and predictions: City to offer Napoli a crucial helping hand
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When Manchester City hired Pep Guardiola as coach in 2016, they made their ambitions very clear. Champions League success is the pinnacle for any European club side, and City wanted to reach it. Guardiola took time to bed in and create a mutual understanding with his players; now, though, they look ready to go far in the competition.
No one has really gotten close to them domestically or in Europe. They are unbeaten all season and have not so much as dropped a point since August; an eight-point lead has put one hand on the Premier League trophy, while a six-point lead and 100% record in their Champions League means they come into this game with no pressure. Shakhtar are currently second, but should they lose and Napoli win by two or more goals in Rotterdam against Feyenoord, they will drop down to the Europa League.
The Ukrainians beat Napoli at home and are strong in defence, but City should have too much even though their own form has dipped recently.
A glance at the results does not suggest City are struggling for form, but their wins are coming in different ways. They have gone the distance recently, but Guardiola’s side’s resolve has been incredible, proving they don’t need score four goals per game to win. Raheem Sterling has been particularly impressive, netting three late goals in a matter of weeks including against Feyenoord in the last Champions League outing. The England man then went on to prove decisive in crucial Premier League games against Huddersfield and Southampton, scoring winners in 2-1 victories.
Shakhtar were not predicted to have much of a chance of going through when they were drawn alongside City and Napoli, two of the best attacking teams in Europe. But they have some good players themselves, and their defensive strength means they are current favourites to join City in the knockout stages. They successfully nullified Napoli on matchday one and have the second best defensive record in the group. If City score early, though, the hosts may struggle from there having only scored seven in the whole campaign despite having impressive attacking players such as Brazilian playmaker Bernard and former Newcastle striker Facundo Ferreyra.
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Guardiola may take this opportunity change his team and give other players an opportunity. Bernardo Silva is a player who will want more opportunities, and this is the kind of game he could start. John Stones and Benjamin Mendy are the only absentees for City.
Taison will be missing for this game for Shakhtar and that is a huge blow. The Brazilian is their main attacking threat from wide areas. With him they will be much easier for City to contain.