Shakhtar Donetsk are one of the fancies in our Wednesday night Champions League round-up.
Astana v Benfica
Benfica should be able to progress with a draw but it’s unlikely to be easy as they make the trek to frozen Astana. Coming off a cup defeat to rivals Sporting and without Luisao and Nico Gaitan the spirit of their team could be questionable. For Astana this is a great chance to go one better than their draws with Galatasaray and Atletico here and they have every chance of inflicting a fifth away defeat in eight away games this season for Benfica.
CSKA v Wolfsburg
Nothing is decided in this group but after both were beaten in their previous games they will both be looking to take all three points from this game. CSKA are still top of the table in Russia but they’re currently on a three game losing streak during which they’ve scored only once and they’ve won only four of 15 European home games since 2011/12, while keeping just one clean sheet. Wolfsburg’s away record isn’t exactly stellar; they’ve lost both UCL road trips this season and five of their last six away games in all competitions. They should at least be feeling more confident than CSKA, however, having won 6-0 at the weekend and there is certainly a chance of more goals here with six of their eight European away matches since the start of last season having at least three goals.
Atletico Madrid v Galatasaray
Atletico will probably advance with a point here while Galatasaray simply have to win after losing at Benfica in their last game. Gala’s last four games have seen 20 goals in total so we could be in for an entertaining clash but their troubles at the back have resulted in a change of coach and may result in a change of approach. Atletico haven’t been particularly impressive in recent weeks but the defence is in good form and they’ve kept nine clean sheets in their last 12 European home games. Since 2000/01 Turkish teams have travelled to Spain 27 times without winning once, including nine defeats in 11 Champions League ties with six losses by at least three clear goals.
Malmo v PSG
Malmo caused a big shock to win their last home game against Shakhtar and they still have a chance to finish third in the group. However, Shakhtar thrashed them in the return match and PSG represent another step up. Malmo have lost 2-0 at home to Real Madrid, Atletico and Juventus since the start of last season but have otherwise been very solid and all five of their UCL home group matches have had fewer than three goals as they’ve conceded just two first-half goals. Since 2012/13 PSG have won seven of 10 UCL away matches where we made them the higher ranked team and six of those wins were by more than one goal while six were also to nil. PSG have conceded just once in their opening four group matches and a win to nil looks on the cards.
Monchengladbach v Sevilla
Monchengladbach were eliminated from the Europa League last season by Sevilla following defeats in both legs and they were also thrashed 3-0 when the teams met in the opening group game of this campaign. However, their form has improved significantly since then and they picked up two draws against Juventus in their last couple of games. Sevilla are now the team who are struggling for form and they are yet to win on the road this season, with five defeats in their last six away matches. Both teams have injuries but look to be fairly evenly matched and, with anything less than a win meaning elimination for both teams, they should be positive. The past 26 matches where Spanish teams have travelled to Germany have seen both teams score 21 times with at least three goals in 20.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid
Real Madrid may be safely through to the next stage of the Champions League having not yet conceded a goal but their humbling in the Clasico at the weekend means Rafa Benitez is already under intense pressure. Real don’t have a great record travelling to Ukraine and Russia, with a W2-D3-L2 record since 2000 and with Shakhtar having scored 22 goals in their five games since losing at Malmo this certainly promises to be a very tricky test. Shakhtar’s recent home record in the Champions League has been relatively inconsistent but they held Bayern to a draw here last season and have won six of their last seven home games in all competitions, with all those wins by at least two clear goals and also to nil.