Bayern Munich vs Shakhtar Donetsk | Wednesday 11 March | Allianz Arena | 21:45
Xabi Alonso’s red card in the first leg really epitomised the fragmented and disjointed nature of Pep Guardiola’s side. They lacked their traditional dynamism and were matched in most departments by Lucescu’s talented side. Guardiola would have probably preferred a slight advantage going into this encounter, especially given the enigmatic, unpredictable nature of Shakhtar Donetsk. This is the third time in five years that Shakhtar have qualified from the group stages, meaning that this is more than just a bunch of preening ingénues with stars in their eyes. But they do come up against one of European football’s resident powerhouses in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the Allianz Arena, setting up a potentially exhilarating Round of 16 second leg tie.
To Win (90mins)
Bayern Munich 2/11
Shakhtar Donetsk 14/1
Bayern will clearly be without the midfield presence of Xabi Alonso following his red card in the first leg encounter. Bastian Schweinsteiger should negate the loss with his similarly extensive range of passing and disciplined positional awareness. Bayern are still without the injured Alcantara and club captain Philipp Lahm, yet the latter has returned to light training following his broken ankle in November. Bayern have been immense in the Bundesliga, currently holding a seemingly unassailable eleven point lead. Robben and Ribery have been outstanding throughout the campaign, but it is the depth of their young talent that has seen them thrive in recent weeks.
World Cup heroes Gotze and Muller were pivotal in Munich’s victory over Hannover this weekend, while Alaba continues to press his case as one of the most talented younger players in European football. Guardiola would have probably felt rather apprehensive about drawing the Ukrainian side for this round, and that apprehension may have thickened in the wake of the first leg stalemate, but I can’t see his side being equally anemic in this return fixture especially with the broad array of attacking talent on display. Robben and Ribery should prove too much for Srna and Shevchuk, but then again it has proved dangerous to write this talented Shakhtar side off.
Mircea Lucescu’s side were at their pugnacious best in a first leg characterised by a strong work ethic throughout his side. This all despite the huge political upheavals that have occurred in Ukraine throughout the year, resulting in Shakhtar’s enforced exile to the west of Ukraine. Shakhtar had the exact same amount of shots on target as Bayern - one - and now give themselves an opportunity to cause a mammoth Champions League upset. Bayern, however, are yet to concede a goal at home in European competition this year, while Shakhtar’s poor domestic form sees them lying eleven points behind Ukrainian leaders Dynamo Kyiv. They will need Luiz Adriano to rediscover the form that saw him bag a record equaling nine goals in the Champions League group stage earlier this season. Stepanenko is back following his one match suspension, which should add some strength to the overall depth of the squad.
There are several other critical areas of the field where Donetsk can hurt the Bavarian monolith. Teixeira and Taison have pace and skill to burn, but the question remains as to how many opportunities they will receive. The experienced defence includes the likes of Srna and Rakitskiy, who were both immense in the first leg. But how will they fare at the Allianz Arena against the incisive running of Robben and Ribery? If they were to nick that precious away goal the entire fixture would turn on its proverbial head, but I just can’t see Shakhtar producing a similarly energised performance as the one in Ukraine.
VERDICT: Bayern Munich 2/11
Bayern will be too defensively organised for the away side while Robben and Ribery will be buoyed by the traditionally partisan crowd. The younger generation led by Gotze and Muller have been pivotal in recent weeks and will also provide huge problems for a Shakhtar side dealing with broader socio-political issues.