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

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Sheriff Tiraspol and Shakhtar Donetsk, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Two sides who battled through Champions League qualification to reach the 2021-22 group stage will lock horns on Wednesday evening, when tournament debutants Sheriff Tiraspol welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to the Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena.

This will be the third meeting between the two teams in a European competition, with the Ukrainian side going unbeaten in their previous two matches during the 2003-04 Champions League qualifiers.

Match preview

Shakhtar Donetsk head coach Roberto De Zerbi attends a news conference on June 15, 2021© Reuters

There is a new Sheriff in town, as the Moldovan champions became the first ever team from their nation to qualify for the Champions League, or previously known European Cup, when they secured a 3-0 aggregate win against Dinamo Zagreb last month.

The Yellow-Blacks play in the Moldovan National Division, though interestingly the club are actually located in a breakaway state called Transnistria, near the Ukrainian border, that is not currently recognised as an independent nation.

Sheriff, a corporate group run by company owners Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly, formed the football club Sheriff Tiraspol in 1997, who have since dominated in the Moldovan top flight, winning 19 titles in the last 21 years.

The Yellow-Blacks, who have previously competed in the Europa League group stages on four occasions, have tried and failed many times to qualify for Europe's elite club competition. However this year, they can finally test themselves among the big boys, with six daunting group stage fixtures against 13-time champions Real Madrid, three-time winners Inter Milan, and Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk, who are their first opponents on Wednesday.

Yuriy Vernydub's side head into their opening group game after claiming 12 points from their opening 15 available in their domestic league. Sheriff have also looked solid defensively keeping a clean sheet in each of their last five matches across all competitions.

Realistically, Sheriff are not expected to progress to the knockout stages, though if they are to claim any points in Group D then their two games against Shakhtar will be the ones they should look to target.

After failing to progress from the Champions League group stages in each of the last three seasons, Shakhtar Donetsk will be hoping to reach the knockout rounds this term, and even though both Real Madrid and Inter Milan are in their group for the second successive year, claiming a top-two spot in Group D is not out of the question.

Despite falling at the first hurdle last year, the Ukrainians surprised many after claiming an impressive double over Los Blancos as well as securing two goalless draws against the Nerazzurri. However, two heavy defeats to Borussia Monchengladbach by a 10-0 aggregate scoreline ensured the Germans progressed to the knockout rounds at their expense.

Replicating such impressive showings against Real and Inter will be required once again this campaign if they are to escape their group, as well as getting early points on the board against a Sheriff Tiraspol side, who they have never lost to or conceded against.

Shakhtar have made a strong start to the new domestic campaign, claiming five wins and a draw from their first seven matches in the Ukrainian Premier League.

The Hirnyky head into Wednesday's game unbeaten in their first five competitive away games so far this season, which includes a narrow 1-0 win against Monaco, who they went on to beat 3-2 on aggregate in the Champions League playoffs.

Former Sassuolo head coach Roberto De Zerbi is now at the helm and he will be making his first appearances as a manager in the Champions League this season; none of the last eight Italian managers have lost their first game in the competition.

Shakhtar cannot take Wednesday's opponents lightly, though they are expected to come away with all three points at the Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena.

Sheriff Tiraspol Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D

Sheriff Tiraspol form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Shakhtar Donetsk Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

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

Team News

Shakhtar Donetsk's Dodo pictured in action in March 2021© Reuters

Sheriff Tiraspol's defensive midfielder Moussa Kyabou and forward Lovro Bizjak are both sidelined due to injury, but otherwise Vernydub has a fully fit squad to choose from.

The Ukrainian head coach is set to stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which will likely see Luxembourg international Sebastien Thill start alongside Edmund Addo in deep-lying midfield roles.

No Sheriff player scored more goals in Champions League qualifying than Adama Traore (four), with three of the Malian's four goals coming on home soil. He is expected to start on the right flank with Frank Castaneda to operate on the left-wing.

As for Shakhtar, experienced forward Junior Moraes and goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin remain out with knee injuries.

Full-back Dodo is currently serving a domestic suspension though the 22-year-old is able to play on Wednesday and is set to start at right-back ahead of Yukhym Konoplya.

Brazilian trio Maycon, Alan Patrick and Marcos Antonio have featured predominantly in central midfield so far this campaign and they are all expected to start against Sheriff.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, no player has scored more as a substitute in the Champions League than Manor Solomon (three). The Israeli winger, however, could be in line to start in midweek, playing alongside Tete and Lassina Traore in a three-man attack.

Sheriff Tiraspol possible starting lineup:
Athanasiadis; Cristiano, Arboleda, Dulanto, Costanza; Addo, Thill; Traore, Kolovos, Yansane; Luvannor

Shakhtar Donetsk possible starting lineup:
Pyatov; Dodo, Vitao, Marlon, Matvienko; Maycon, Antonio, Patrick; Tete, Traore, Solomon

SM words green background

We say: Sheriff Tiraspol 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Both Sheriff and Shakhtar like to play an attractive brand of football and so an entertaining game could be on the cards in Transnistria.

The visitors will be the favourites on Wednesday night and we expect them to secure a routine win against the Champions League debutants.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting over 1.5 goals 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.Over 1.5:data

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Monaco manager Niko Kovac pictured in February 2021
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