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Marcos Antonio has played a key role for Shakhtar over the last three seasons
Marcos Antonio has played a key role for Shakhtar over the last three seasons

Shakhtar Donetsk relinquished their Ukrainian league title to Dynamo Kyiv for just the third time in 12 seasons earlier this year.

They had won the Premier League four years in a row prior to that but Dynamo surged to an 11-point victory over them last time out.

Shakhtar still qualified for the Champions League but their second-place finish meant they had to enter at the third qualifying round – rather than going straight to the group stage.

They defeated Genk 4-2 on aggregate before drawing Monaco in the play-offs to enter the group stage.

It took until extra-time of the second leg against the Ligue 1 side to seal their place. 

An extremely unfortunate own-goal from Monaco defender Ruben Aguilar gave them a 3-2 aggregate victory, having won the first leg 1-0 at the Stade Louis II.

Shakhtar Donetsk's Champions League group

Group D: Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol

European history

A runners-up finish domestically brought Luis Castro's two-year reign in the Shakhtar Donetsk dugout to an end
A runners-up finish domestically brought Luis Castro's two-year reign in the Shakhtar Donetsk dugout to an end

Shakhtar were winners of the final edition of the UEFA Cup in 2009 before the tournament changed its name to the Europa League.

Their best season in the Champions League saw them reach the quarter-finals in 2011, where they were beaten convincingly by eventual winners Barcelona.

In more recent years they have made it to the semi-finals of the Europa League on two occasions — in 2016 and 2020 — while also reaching the last 16 in the Champions League three times (2013, 2015 and 2018).

Last season they finished third in their Champions League group and exited the Europa League at the last 16 stage after losing 5-1 on aggregate to Roma.

Expectations

Shakhtar may have fallen behind Dynamo domestically in 2020-21 but they have consistently been a difficult team to beat in Europe.

The Miners have already demonstrated that this season after griding out a play-off win over Monaco despite an unconvincing second leg.

Due to the ongoing problems in Eastern Ukraine and the Donbas region, Shakhtar have played some recent games in Kharkiv, but will play their ‘home’ Champions League matches in Kyiv.

The team have become used to the disruption caused by this issue but it may still play a part in the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

Having been drawn with Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Sheriff Tiraspol, a third-place finish and a chance in the Europa League looks likely.

But Shakhtar will be looking to cause an upset and are more than capable of doing so on their day.

Star man: Tete

Tete is the leading figure in Shakhtar Donetsk's army of Brazilian stars
Tete is the leading figure in Shakhtar Donetsk's army of Brazilian stars

As is always the case, Shakhtar have a number of Brazilians on their books — the club started seven players from the South American nation in their play-off second leg against Monaco.

All of them bring something to the table but the star of the show this season could be the 21-year-old Tete.

The winger was signed from Gremio as a youth player and is now in his fourth season at the Ukrainian club.

He joined in February 2019 and though he already has 22 goals and 15 assists in all competitions during that time, he will be looking to take the next step by increasing his output this term.

One to watch: Lassina Traore

Shakhtar will be hoping summer signing Lassina Traore can carry on his Eredivisie form
Shakhtar will be hoping summer signing Lassina Traore can carry on his Eredivisie form

Shakhtar have made a couple of eye-catching attacking signings this season, including the £16million transfer of attacking midfielder Pedrinho from Benfica.

But the player who has really hit the ground running is the 20-year-old Burkinabe forward Lassina Traore.

The towering striker already has five goals in six league appearances, after arriving from Ajax over the summer.

The boss: Roberto De Zerbi

Italian coach Roberto De Zerbi’s arrival has heightened expectations at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The highly-rated 42-year-old has previously spent time managing Italian sides that include Foggia and Benevento, but really made his name while coaching Sassuolo.

He took the club to an 11th-place finish in Serie A during his first season, before back-to-back eighth-place finishes in 2020 and 2021.

That he did so in style was another reason Shakhtar chose De Zerbi to lead them into their next chapter, as they look to wrest the Ukrainian title back off Dynamo and make their mark in Europe once again.

All information correct as of 10am, September 15, 2021

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10:38 (+00:00)16 Sep 2021 (Thu)