Allen Hamilton

What: Champions League (Round of 16)
Who: Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk
When: Wednesday 16th February, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

Concentrate on Europe?

Any lingering hopes that Roma had of getting involved in the Serie A title race were all but extinguished at the weekend with a 2-0 home defeat to Napoli. While reclaiming a spot in next season’s Champions League is not beyond the Giallorossi, with Udinese, Inter, Lazio, Palermo and Juventus all hoping to squeeze into the two spots behind AC Milan and Napoli, perhaps the best route back in next season will be by winning the trophy at the final at Wembley.

That Napoli loss, which Roma comprehensively dominated in every department, also left coach Claudio Ranieri in serious danger. The former Chelsea boss has been close to walking the plank in the Italian capital before, but has always recovered; defeat in the Round of 16 to Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk however would make his chances of surviving slim at best. "I do not see the spark", said Ranieri after the Napoli loss, as he appealed to his players to give more. Perhaps a break from Serie A will bring out the best in the Giallorossi – certainly Ranieri will be crossing his fingers and hoping it does.

Mission Quarter-finals

When Mircea Lucescu’s side began their Champions League adventure, the target they had been set by billionaire owner Rinat Ahmetov was clear: the quarter-finals. The oligarch wants to see improvement from Shakhtar in Europe. Ukraine is conquered, but since winning the UEFA Cup in 2009, the hope for breakthrough in the top tier competition has not materialised. But now, having finished top of a group that included Arsenal, Lucescu’s men can feel their target is within touching distance – and after it, who knows?

Holding a 14-point lead in Ukraine’s Premier League, Shakhtar can afford to concentrate on the Champions League, but question marks will continue to linger over a possible lack of match action. As is usual for Ukrainian clubs, a mammoth three-month break between the end of November and the start of March often affects the country’s club sides. Lucescu has been keeping Shakhtar busy with friendlies, however a competitive match is always something different. Shakhtar will also do well to forget their previous visit to Roma – it ended 4-0 to the hosts.


Recent form


Roma 1-1 Brescia (02/02; Serie A)
Inter 5-3 Roma (06/02; Serie A)
Roma 0-2 Napoli (12/02; Serie A)

Shakhtar Donetsk:
Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 FC Nordsjaelland (01/02; Friendly)
Rosenborg 1-3 Shakhtar Donetsk (04/02; Friendly)
Karpaty Lviv 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (07/02; Friendly)

Key absences

Roma: Adriano; David Pizarro (doubt)

Shakhtar Donetsk: Olexandr Kucher

Players to watch

Roma – John Arne Riise: The flying Norwegian full back has vast Champions League knockout experience from his time with Liverpool and Roma will need him to use every ounce of that in what could be a close tie. With Shakhtar a quick counter attacking side, it is also crucial that Riise, who often likes to bomb forward, is not caught out of position. All in all, his is perhaps a more important role than usual.

Shakhtar Donetsk – Willian: While Douglas Costa has been attracting much of the attention, 22-year-old Willian has been going about his business with Shakhtar. Having joined in 2007 from Corinthians, the tricky attacking midfielder-cum-winger has lived up to his $19M price-tag. An excellent passer, able to thread the ball through the eye of a needle, Willian is also a tricky customer and can do Roma real damage.

Match prediction

Having lost their last two Serie A matches Roma may come into this game with their confidence having taken a bit of a hit. However, they are well capable of accounting for a Shakhtar side which has, in the past, failed to travel well. That needs to change if Lucescu is to guide his team past Roma as this first leg and away goals will be crucial. This looks a tight game and a narrow Roma win will be the probable outcome. 1-0 or 2-1 Roma.

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