After a defeat to Real Madrid in which they can be proud of their performance, Celtic will be aspiring to get fully up and running in the Champions League on match day two.

They travel to face third seeds Shakhtar Donetsk in a game that many of the Hoops faithful believe they can take something from.

Soccer Football – Champions League – Group H – Celtic v Real Madrid – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – September 6, 2022 Celtic’s Moritz Jenz in action with Real Madrid’s Rodrygo REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Going away in Europe, though, is never a simple task and today, we’ll be examining Celtic’s next Champions League opponents starting off with their background, then going on to look at their recent form and finally, picking out a player or two you should keep your eye on on Wednesday evening.

Thursday Flagship Podcast w/ Gianni Capaldi

Club background

Shakhtar Donetsk were formed in 1936 and have won a respectable 37 major honours in their history.

They are second to only Dynamo Kyiv for the number of Ukrainian top flight titles won but have also enjoyed success on the continent as recent as the 2008/09 season when they defeated Werder Bremen 2-1 in the Europa League final in Istanbul. This was and still is their only major European honour whilst also being just the third ever won by a Ukrainian team.

In terms of home ground, Shakhtar have had quite a few in recent years. Built for the European Championships which took place across Poland and Ukraine in 2012, they played at the Donbass Arena for four years until 2014 when it was forced to shut due to war in the region.

They would then turn out in Lviv (2014-2016) and Kharkiv (2017-2020) with their current home ground being the Olympic National Sports Complex Stadium in Kyiv. That is only for domestic matches, though, with Shakhtar’s match day two clash with Celtic on Wednesday taking place in the Polish capital of Warsaw. Legia Stadium is actually a ground Celtic have played in already this season in a friendly with Legia Warsaw although Champions League group stage points are up for grabs against the Ukrainian champions this time around.

Moving on to some notable past players and Shakhtar have a history of developing quite a few Brazilians. The club is known as a ‘Brazilian colony’ with the likes of Fernandinho, Willian, Douglas Costa and Fred all having played for them at one point or another down to how easier it is in Ukraine than other countries to gain a work permit.

Now that we know a bit more about Shakhtar Donetsk the football club, let’s examine how they’ve been getting on in recent weeks and months.

Recent form

When war broke out in Ukraine earlier this year, football in the country was subsequently shut down.

However throughout April and early May, Shakhtar, along with Dynamo Kyiv, went on a ‘Global Tour for Peace’, taking on Olympiacos, Lechia Gdańsk, Fenerbache, Antalyaspor and Hajduk Split in respective friendlies.

Much cannot be taken from these games, though, and it was in July where the real work began ahead of the 2022/23 season.

However in friendlies with Fortuna Sittard, Ajax, FC Utrecht and Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk failed to taste victory.

Albeit it was only pre-season although their stagnant form continued into the beginning of the Ukrainian Premier League campaign. In Shakhtar’s opening league match, they played out a goalless draw with Metalist 1925 however they would bounce back in the two games following this, winning 1-0 twice against Kryvbas and Rukh Lviv respectively.

Then after their trio of domestic matches at the beginning of the season, the Ukrainian side lined up in the Champions League last Tuesday night. It is a competition they have been regulars in in the past decade having been in the group stage in nine out of the last ten years. Shakhtar have even got to the last 16 three times in this period and recorded some memorable victories over Real Madrid, Man City and Chelsea. RB Leipzig were then added to this list on 2022/23 group stage match day one as Shakhtar recorded a hugely eye-catching away win.

In East Germany, the Ukrainians were utterly ruthless, ripping apart Bundesliga side Leipzig, admittedly with some luck, to win 4-1. Four shots on target and an xG of 0.95 created, however, suggests a significant over-performance which should reduce Celtic fans’ fears which may have been there when they initially saw the scoreline.

Going on from this, Shakhtar played Chornomorets Odessa in the league on Saturday and made it four wins on the bounce in all competitions courtesy of a narrow 2-1 victory. In spite of a somewhat stagnant display, this win certainly put them in fine stead going into Wednesday’s game although it has to be said Celtic are in a not to dissimilar plight ahead of the match.

Ones to watch – Mykhaylo Mudryk and Maryan Shved

Much of Shakhtar Donetsk’s prominent talent has departed of late including David Neres, Dodo, Marcos Antonio and Manor Solomon although the club do still have some noteworthy players within their ranks.

The first of which we’re going to speak of is wide-man Mykhaylo Mudryk. Over the summer, Mudryk was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal although the Gunners weren’t willing to shell out a reported €50m on his services. It was a fee Shakhtar were willing to accept no less than and it is clear to see why.

An athletic, direct left winger who carries the ball well and can create significant opportunities with his innovative abilities, Mudryk has started this season rather swimmingly, scoring one goal and assisting three in four appearances in all competitions.

He wears number ten for Shakhtar and if his blonde hair doesn’t make him standout on Wednesday, Mudryk’s playing abilities most definitely will.

Moving on to another one to watch from Celtic’s upcoming opponents and he may not possess the ability of the aforementioned Mudryk, at least when he was in Glasgow, however Maryan Shved’s brace on his first Shakhtar start after signing from KV Mechelen for £900,000 caught the eye.

Although his goals were not the most spectacular (a pass into an open goal after capitalising on a horrendous goalkeeping error and a deflected effort from inside the box), it would not be surprising to see the former Celtic man do something against his former club on Wednesday night, especially after he added to his double against Leipzig with another strike, this time against Chornomorests Odessa, on the weekend.

Overall conclusion

The last time Celtic faced Shakhtar Donetsk it was in this very competition but all the way back in 2007. At Celtic Park that night, the Hoops won 2-1 with a late Massimo Donati strike the difference and I’m sure the travelling support would bite your hand off for a similar result on Wednesday.

How much of a difference the match taking place in the Polish capital of Warsaw will have on Shakhtar remains to be seen although the Ukrainians showed no fear away in Leipzig on match day one. A 4-1 win, though, wasn’t a fair reflection of the game and it will be intriguing to see how Wednesday’s match goes.

Assuming Real Madrid defeat RB Leipzig, a Celtic win could widely open up the race for second place in group F prior to the Hoops’ double header with the Germans.

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