Shakhtar Donetsk enjoys home advantage over RB Leipzig in the final match of the group stage. It’s looking increasingly likely that, despite a gallant effort from the Ukrainian side, they are up against it on matchday six, knowing victory is a must if they are to find a way into the knockout stages. Ahead of this match, the home team are staring at elimination from the competition, which could inspire one last roll of the dice. To stand any chance of playing in this competition after Christmas, Donetsk must beat RB Leipzig and do it in style.
The Germans haven’t been as impressive as fans had hoped in their opening few games, but they eventually found their feet and start round six with a chance of finishing top of the table. With RB Leipzig off to Poland to play Shakhtar Donetsk on neutral ground and Real Madrid needing a home win over Celtic to secure the top spot, it’s set up for a thrilling finish. Will Blancos do as expected and hold their ground? Can RB Leipzig get the win needed to make the current leaders uncomfortable?
These teams have met only once before in competitive action, and that match came earlier in his campaign when Shakhtar Donetsk won well in Germany. RB Leipzig is a team that has been underperforming at this level – considering how much cash they spend on transfers – and they were blown away by Shakhtar on matchday one when losing 4-1 at home. That was one of the team’s biggest defeats at this level, and fans demand a response from the players here. Lose again, and things will get interesting as the group changes shape.
Donetsk winless in four
Shakhtar start this match placed third in Group F with six points on the board. Celtic are the only team beneath them in the pecking order, and the Scots will stay where they are and wind up at the foot of the table. They have two points on the board but failed to make an impact on a group that looked to be there for the winning. Real Madrid hasn’t been at their best – they haven’t needed to be – while RB Leipzig has blown hot and cold since the start. Celtic have been terrible while Shakhtar have overachieved.,
There are a few different stories going on in this group, and it’s one of the last remaining pools where there’s something to play for at this late stage. Donetsk set up for this home match in game six, knowing the consolation of the Europa League and a third-place finish is the least they can expect. With stats of one win, three draws and a defeat, they have six points on the board, four more than bottom club Celtic, and three behind RB Leipzig, who they have already beaten. Real Madrid is four points clear but just one better than RB, and that will create a few nerves in the camp of the La Liga champions.
Despite holding their own and performing better than most expected, Donetsk has fallen off the pace in recent weeks and is without a win in their last four games at this level. However, they haven’t been losing, with three of those four ending in a draw. They have been playing well but have lacked the killer instinct and sharpness in front of goal to turn chances into goals and draws into wins. They have nothing to lose here, knowing they can’t finish bottom, and that allows Donetsk to have a go at winning this.
Bulls need a late charge
It has been far from a perfect campaign for RB Leipzig, and it looked like they could be heading for the exit after six group games. The Bulls travel to Poland for this match, with their campaign stats showing three wins against two defeats, with nine goals scored and nine conceded. The German Bundesliga side lost each of their opening two games, including that heavy defeat against Wednesday’s opponents. RB was bottom of the league before running into Celtic and taking six points from the Scots to shove them back into contention.
After losing each of their first two games, RB Leipzig turned things around and has now won each of their last three. They beat Celtic in Germany and then repeated the feat in Glasgow, and those back-to-back wins fired them up the table. With Shakhtar drawing the short straw and playing Real Madrid twice on the bounce, it afforded Leipzig the space to squeeze in, and they now have their fate in their hands. Avoid defeat in Poland, and they will be going through to the next round. It’s as simple as that. The players know where they stand and can focus on the task at hand.
RB Leipzig warmed up for this with a home win over Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga. Despite holding the home advantage for that game, RB Leipzig was expected to struggle, and most pundits had that match marked down as a draw. But the Bulls fully deserved the three points, scoring two goals at home and keeping a clean sheet. The performance that day would have done wonders for team morale, and they’ll be desperate to get started.
Shakhtar Donetsk v RB Leipzig prediction
Shakhtar Donetsk has the home advantage for this match and can afford to go for broke. They are already in the Europa League place and can’t fall any lower. That means win, lose or draw. They have European football in the new year.
Will that guarantee encourage the Ukrainian champions to have a go and attack early? We hope so, as it would create an exciting match. RB Leipzig knows a draw would be enough, and after keeping a clean sheet at the weekend, we could see them aim to hold on, frustrate their opponents and play to avoid defeat.
Champions League odds
22Bet members can gamble on this match with Shakhtar Donetsk offered at 4.96, while RB Leipzig can be backed at 1.625. Fancy the draw? A level finish is 4.22.
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