With back-to-back league wins in Serie A, Roma’s intentions switch to the Europa League this Thursday evening as Paulo Fonseca’s former side Shakhtar Donetsk come to Rome for the first leg of the round of 16 ties.
The last time these two sides met was the last 16 of Champions League in 2018 where Roma prevailed on away goals 2-2 on aggregate. Edin Dzeko second-half strike in Rome was enough for Roma to go through.
After the AC Milan defeat it has been a good last 7 days for AS Roma, back-to-back Serie A wins have seen Roma back into the top 4 in Serie A Standings. Harbouring the ambitions for Champions League football next season it’s important that Roma can keep up with the teams above them and match them blow by blow.
The next two weeks are going to pivotal, sandwiched in between the two Europa League games against Shakhtar Donetsk are an away trip to Parma and a home game against Napoli. If Roma come through unscathed in the next four games, then the skies in the limit in the final stretch of the season. Got through the last two games with maximum points and that was massive after the debacle of the AC Milan game.
Winning on Sunday against a particularly good well organised Genoa team, the three points is all the mattered. That was the type of game a couple of seasons ago you could see Roma dropping stupid points. Got the goal midway through the first half and dealt the problems that Genoa chucked at them with ease.
Under a different coach in a different era, Roma would have dropped points. But not this season under Paulo Fonseca, he is working well with the tools he has at his disposal and Roma are reaping the rewards.
Hopefully, with some big games coming up against a top 6 side, Roma can get that win on the board and kick on. Because those nagging doubts will linger for a while if Roma continue to struggle against the top 6 and cannot get that big win over the line.
Shakhtar Donetsk travel to Rome on Thursday seeking revenge for what happened in the Champions League tie in 2018 where Roma went through on away goals. Shakhtar currently 2nd in the Ukrainian Premier League with 36 points from 17 games 4 points behind league leaders Dynamo Kyiv.
Shakhtar Donetsk finished third in Group B in the Champions League and grabbed a point on the final matchday which eliminated Inter Milan from European competition. Shakhtar achieved the double over Real Madrid, winning 3-2 in Madrid and winning the return fixture 2-0 in Kyiv. But lost both games to German side Borussia Monchengladbach on aggregate 10-0. A 6-0 hammering in Kyiv was followed up two weeks later by a 4-0 defeat a few weeks later. Strange results for Shakhtar, draw 0-0 twice against Inter Milan, beat Real Madrid twice but lose to Marco Rose’s side twice heavily.
Luis Castro’s side negotiated the round of 32 Europa League tie against Maccabi Tel Aviv with a 3-0 aggregate win over the two legs. Alan Patrick and Brazilian winger Tete scored two crucial away goals from Shakhtar to take back to Kyiv. Junior Morais scored a second-half penalty in the second leg as Shakhtar won 1-0 and sealed passage to the round of 16 in the Europa League.
Shakhtar Donetsk form since the resumption of football after the winter break has been a bit patchy. Two wins in the Europa League over Maccabi Tel Aviv. In the Ukrainian Premier League, it is 7 points from 4 games and included a first defeat in the league which was a home defeat 1-0 to Zorya Lugansk. A few days later Shakhtar were knocked out of the Ukrainian cup by Agrobiznes Volochysk 1-0 after extra time.
Luis Castro is the Shakhtar Donetsk coach and is in the 2nd year coaching in Ukraine. The Portuguese coach signed a two-year deal with the club just days after Paulo Fonseca departed Ukraine for Italy to coach Roma. Castro managed to bring silverware in his first season at the club by winning the Ukrainian Premier League, the 4th successive league title in a row. Also got to the Europa League semi-final but were undone by Antonio Conte‘s side with Inter winning 5-0.
Castro likes to play a 4-2-3-1 formation but has switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 and even switched to a 5-3-2 for the game in Milan against Inter in the last group game of the Champions League.
The key players to watch out for in the Shakhtar Donetsk side:
Israelian international Manor Solomon has been involved in 6 goals in 24 appearances this season in all competitions with 5 goals and 1 assist. Solomon can play either on the left or right side of the attack and can play as a no10. Proved to be a big hit in the Champions League by scoring in each of the two victories over Real Madrid.
The second and final player to keep an eye on is Alan Patrick, the fulcrum in the Shakhtar Donetsk midfield. Been involved in 8 goals in 23 appearances this season in all competitions with 5 goals and 3 assists. Alan Patrick is mainly used as one of the double pivots in the Shakhtar midfield, he is very adaptive can play in the double pivot or play as a no10.
PREDICTED XI | ROMA (3-4-2-1)
Paul Lopez, Mancini, Smalling, Kumbulla, Karsdorp, Villar, Diawara, Spinazzola, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan, Borja Mayoral.
PREDICTED XI | SHAKHTAR DONETSK (4-3-3)
Trubin, Dodo, Krytsov, Vitao, Matvienko, Marlos, Maycon, Alan Patrick, Solomon, Taison, Junior Moraes.
This is a big game for AS Roma, dumped out of Europe at the same stage last season against Sevilla. This time Roma needs to re-write the wrongs of last year and put themselves in the right position to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Thursday night game is the perfect opportunity in doing so.