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Michael Taylor 18th Oct 2010 - 9:58

Odds-on Arsenal a risk against classy Shakhtar

Arsenal welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to the Emirates for the third round of Champions League games and while the Gunners are odds-on shots nobody is predicting an easy 90 minutes.

The Ukrainian champions arrive in London full of confidence thanks to a series of remarkable results both domestically and in the Champions League.

Fifteen games into their season and Shakhtar boast thirteen wins, five goals conceded and just one loss on their way to running up a five point lead in the Ukrainian Premier and a perfect record in Europe.

The key of their success remains a constant from their UEFA Cup winning year, that being a blend of impressive home talent and a sprinkling of jaw dropping Brazilian attackers.

The impressive quartet of Wilian, Jadson, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano seemingly create chance after chance, game after game and nowhere was their dominance felt more than in Braga in game week two.

Seen as slight underdogs against the team that so unceremoniously dumped Sevilla out of the Champions League, Donetsk ran riot in Portugal as Adriano grabbed a double and Costa put the icing on a magnificent second half showing.

The manner of the 3-0 drubbing drew obvious comparisons to the Dynamo Kiev side of the late 1990s - an era that put the Ukraine back on the football map thanks to wins over the likes of Real Madrid and Arsenal.

Kiev may have had Shevchenko amongst their ranks but this Shakhtar side can boast a style of play and balance that someone like Arsene Wenger must sit back and enjoy on his days off.

Rarely does coach Mircea Lucescu choose to sit back and soak up pressure, rather it's about slick passing and moving and ball retention.

Sound familiar?

It should do, in many ways this is Arsenal v their Ukrainian equivalent so if you're expecting a cagey battle at the Emirates then you'll most likely be disappointed.

The Gunners have shown they're susceptible to the odd away goal, the most recent example of this being against Birmingham at the weekend, so watch out for the away side to come flying out of the gate.

It's something the Ukrainians obviously looked to work on in their past match, a 2-0 win over Metalurh Donetsk, with early goals from Chygrynskiy and Teixeira putting the game beyond doubt after just 19 minutes.

We all know the scenario after all we've seen it seemingly hundreds of times before, Arsenal fall behind early and battle back, usually for a stylish win - I feel it could be the same again here with Arsenal to come from behind and win priced at 13/2.

Once the likes of Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri get in the groove the Gunners should gain some control in midfield while Chamakh is a bit of an x-factor upfront with his mixed bag of sublime and not so great.

The summer recruit might be frustrating but he's already shown he has the handy knack of popping up at the right time and he could be the one that allows Wenger's men to remain in this tie - Chamakh is 6/5 to score anytime.

It's hard to pinpoint Shakhtar's key threat as they interchange positions and roles on a minute by minute basis but it's essential that Douglas Costa isn't afforded too much time on the ball with his eye for a killer ball.

Adriano perhaps looks the best bet at 9/1 to open the scoring though given what happened in Braga while former Emirates favourite Eduardo is probably best ignored given his inability to become a starter on a regular basis since arriving in the Ukraine.

Getting back to the starting point and the fact Arsenal are 7/10 odds-on shots, it's too hard to back for me with the away side being something of an unknown quantity.

The Ukrainian League might lack strength in depth but with big recent wins over Dynamo Kiev, Partizan Belgrade and Braga it's simply too dangerous to ignore their threat.

Instead I'm looking at the 7/10 about more than 2.5 goals as the more sensible in this one.


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