What: UEFA Champions League Quarter-final (first leg)
Who: Barcelona vs Shakhtar Donetsk
When: Wednesday 6th April, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Thank You Preciado

Out of all people, it was Manuel Preciado who ended Jose Mourinho’s remarkable run, stopping the Portuguese coach at the whopping number of 150 home league games undefeated. In doing so, the Sporting Gijon boss helped to increase the gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid to a substantial eight points, all but deciding La Liga. Now, Josep Guardiola’s men can carefully turn their attention to Shakhtar Donetsk as they prepare for their Champions League quarter-final.

While the points difference between the two Spanish giants is too much for Real Madrid to realistically claw back, the Barcelona camp remains nonetheless far away from celebration spirits, as midfielder Andres Iniesta pointed out, the league title is not secured yet: “It’s an important step [towards the title] but there are still many points left to play.”

The Blaugrana will undoubtedly be looking to get the job done at home here, before travelling to the cold Ukraine. Barcelona’s away record in the competition is not their strongest suit, and they will therefore be hoping to rely on the support of the Camp Nou faithful.

Mountain to Climb

Lady Luck certainly didn’t do Shakhtar Donetsk any favours by pairing them with the competition’s favourites. The Miners might have blown Roma away in the previous stage, but they surely face a mountain to climb should they want to progress beyond this point and meet either Real Madrid or Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final. With Los Cules in such high spirits, their task looks a near impossible one.

However, Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu will be boosted by taking a strong squad to Barcelona, with former Camp Nou defender Dymtro Chygrynskiy travelling with the side to Catalonia. And having succeeded in meeting their pre-season objective of reaching the Champions League quarter-final, Shakhtar can rest easy, for this tie sees relatively little pressure on the Ukrainians, with Barcelona expected to dump them out.

One thing that will be to Shakhtar’s advantage is the fact that the return leg will be played in Ukraine. Therefore, scoring as many goals as possible against Barcelona will undoubtedly ease their task. However, that remains easier said than done.

 

Recent form

Barcelona:
Sevilla 1-1 Barcelona (13/03; La Liga)
Barcelona 2-1 Getafe (19/03; La Liga)
Villarreal 0-1 Barcelona (02/04; La Liga)

Shakhtar Donetsk:

Karpaty 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (13/03; Premier League)
Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 Volyn (20/03; Premier League)
Illychivets 1-3 Shakhtar Donetsk (01/04; Premier League)

Key absences

Barcelona: Maxwell; Pedro; Eric Abidal; Carles Puyol; Bojan

Shakhtar Donetsk: Eduardo (doubt); Dmytro Chygrynskiy (doubt)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Xavi: The club’s second skipper returns after serving a suspension against Villarreal. His absence was clearly missed in the centre of the park, and as such he will be welcomed back to orchestrate the Barcelona band.

Shakhtar Donetsk – Willian: The small Brazilian made his presence felt against Roma, scoring two of the goals that helped to knock out the Giallorossi. His performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with Barcelona expected to check on his progress here.

 
Match Prediction

With Barcelona almost handed the league title this past weekend, the reigning Spanish champions can now focus solely on this match. While their injury list remains concerning, the Blaugrana have pulled through before, and in front of their own crowd, will have little trouble winning. Barcelona 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk.

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