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Mar 18, 2021 at 5.55pm UK at Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist
ShakhtarShakhtar Donetsk
Moraes (59')
Antonio (38'), Patrick (55')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Mayoral (48', 72')
Ibanez (25'), Karsdorp (57')

Preview: Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Shakhtar Donetsk and Roma, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Last season's beaten semi-finalists Shakhtar Donetsk must produce a minor miracle in Kiev this Thursday, as they trail by three goals against Roma from the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

Led by former Shakhtar coach Paulo Fonseca, the ambitious Giallorossi are aiming to reach the competition's quarter-finals for the first time, by finishing off the job they started in Rome last week.

Match preview

Roma's Lorenzo Pellegrini celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates against Inter Milan on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Under pressure to secure their first continental silverware since the 1960-61 Fairs Cup - and with any hopes of contending for the Serie A title in tatters after a loss to lowly Parma at the weekend - Roma at least have one foot in the last eight ahead of their trip to Ukraine this week.

For over a decade now, the Italian side's trophy cabinet has remained undisturbed, with the 2008 Coppa Italia being the club's most recent success. Therefore, they were delighted to post a fourth successive home win in the Europa League knockout phase, as they saw off Shakhtar 3-0 at Stadio Olimpico.

Lorenzo Pellegrini opened the scoring midway through the first half, but only a late flourish - through a Stephan El Shaarawy solo strike and Gianluca Mancini's latest headed goal - sealed a potentially decisive first-leg win.

On Sunday, though, the Giallorossi were humbled by unlikely conquerors Parma, who finally ended a 17-match winless streak with their surprise 2-0 victory over Paulo Fonseca's men in Emilia-Romagna. Roma appeared both flat and fatigued after Thursday's win over the Ukrainian champions and must now travel onward to Kiev before returning to play fellow top four contenders Napoli just days later.

While the side currently sixth in Serie A have enjoyed some superb home form this term, with only a solitary league loss at the Olimpico in 2020-21, their underwhelming away record should offer a sliver of hope to their opponents this week.

Having conceded at a worrying rate of nearly two goals per game while on the road, head coach Paulo Fonseca will feel far from secure that his fragile defence is prepared to handle any incoming onslaught from his former club.

Shakhtar Donetsk coach Luis Castro in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

Currently in second place in the Ukrainian Premier League - four points adrift of familiar foes Dynamo Kiev - Luis Castro's Shakhtar Donetsk side have suffered a rare run of defeats in recent weeks, as their first domestic loss of the season against Zorya was swiftly followed by a shock cup exit to Agrobiznes Volochysk just days later.

Though two subsequent league triumphs - the second of which was an emphatic 4-0 win over Desna on Sunday - have righted the ship in the league, their first leg collapse in Rome will have surely dented confidence in the camp.

Despite trailing Dynamo in the title race, Castro's team can boast the best attack in Ukraine - with 40 goals scored at a rate of over two per game - and also the tightest defensive record, with just 12 goals conceded so far.

Such statistics are in keeping with a team that defeated Real Madrid twice in the Champions League group stage before Christmas, but the representatives of Ukraine's troubled Donbass region are also capable of imploding on the big stage - as in Rome last Thursday.

Defining unpredictability, in three of their last five continental outings, they have lost 6-0, 4-0 and 3-0, while the other two games saw them keep clean sheets against European giants Real and Inter Milan.

Castro is not, then, totally without hope that his customarily Brazilian-influenced side can pull off a memorable comeback to upset one of the club's most fondly regarded managers.

Achieving the double in each of his three seasons with Shakhtar, their former coach Fonseca was replaced by his countryman - who had also succeeded him as interim manager of Porto in 2014 - when he departed for the Eternal City two years ago.

However, nostalgia and pleasantries will be swept to one side for 90 minutes or more, as the pride of Donetsk attempt to retrieve what looks to many like a lost cause.

Shakhtar Donetsk Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • L

Shakhtar Donetsk form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Roma Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Roma form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L

Team News

Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action for Roma on January 3, 2021© Reuters

Roma's most productive duo in terms of goal involvements this term - former Shakhtar favourite Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who came off injured in the first half of the first leg - and Jordan Veretout are both injured and unavailable for the journey east.

Additionally, reserve defender Juan Jesus tested positive for COVID-19 last week and continues to self-isolate, while Chris Smalling is out of action again. The former Manchester United man's latest injury concern of a heavily disrupted campaign is a thigh problem sustained late last week.

However, fellow centre-back Roger Ibanez returned to the squad at the weekend and could start alongside Marash Kumbulla and Gianluca Mancini in Smalling's absence.

It is expected that captain Lorenzo Pellegrini will be rested ahead of the major clash with Napoli at the weekend, so Bryan Cristante may start alongside either Gonzalo Villar or Amadou Diawara in midfield. Meanwhile, the central striker's role remains a tug-of-war between current incumbent Edin Dzeko and previous Europa League regular Borja Mayoral.

Home manager Luis Castro has a mostly fit and rested squad to choose from, after the Shakhtar supremo rotated his starting XI against Desna last weekend.

Much-admired Israeli forward Manor Solomon may be in contention to start, having bagged a brace in league action, but one of the club's customarily burgeoning Brazilian-born contingent - Ukraine international Marlos - is favourite to play in support of Junior Moraes up front.

Deep-lying midfielder Taras Stepanenko remains out of commission with a knee injury sustained late last month, so Maycon continues to run the hosts' engine room.

Shakhtar Donetsk possible starting lineup:
Trubin; Dodo, Matvienko, Vitao, Ismaily; Maycon; Tete; Marlos, Patrick, Taison; Moraes

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mancini, Ibanez, Kumbulla; Karsdorp, Cristante, Villar, Peres; Pedro, El Shaarawy; Mayoral

SM words green background

We say: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Roma

Despite some fairly wild inconsistencies in recent months, Shakhtar have proven their pedigree at the elite level of European competition by beating Real Madrid and effectively eliminating Roma's domestic rivals Inter.

Unfortunately for Luis Castro's side, their first leg deficit is just too great for them to overturn against Roma this week, so the Giallorossi can seal progress on aggregate to reach the Europa League final eight for the very first time.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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Roma's Gianluca Mancini pictured in March 2021
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