Shakhtar to be hung, drawn and quartered?
Shakhtar Donetsk were handed possibly the toughest draw when their plastic ball was plucked alongside that of their more illustrious Spanish counterparts. The Ukrainians have won nine of their last ten Champions League matches but better records and bigger teams have left the Nou Camp with their confidence smashed and their spirits demoralised.
Barcelona (1/8 Match betting) have all but wrapped up their third consecutive La Liga title after a Gerard Pique goal (16/1 first scorer) earned the Catalans a hard fought 1-0 win away at Villarreal to leave them 8 points clear of their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi was rested by Pep Guardiola for much of the game at El Madrigal, only calling on the Argentine star in the second half, taking the opportunity to take off David Villa (9/4 first scorer, 1/2 anytime).
On the European front Barca have been imperious at their magnificent Nou Camp stadium, winning all four of their home matches with consummate ease. They breezed through Group without losing a game and only conceding the three goals. Nothing highlighted the dominance and superiority that this Barcelona side can have over any team with their brilliant display against Arsenal in the round of 16. Two goals from Lionel Messi (2/1 first scorer, 2/5 anytime) and Xavi (10/1 first scorer, 7/2 anytime) put the Gunners to the sword in a fantastic exhibition of ball retention coupled with tenacious defence, starting from the very front all the way back throughout the team.
A repeat of that 3-1 scoreline pays out at odds of 10/1 but Shakhtar will be praying that they can keep the tie a much closer affair.
Shakhtar (14/1) have enoyed their most successful Champions League campaign in their history, topping Group H with 15 points ahead of Braga and Arsenal. In that Group they were thrashed 6-1 by the Gunners, reportedly they were overawed by the occasion and the surroundings. Micea Lucesu's men have proved since that they have become accustomed to dining at European football's premier table, defeating Italian giants Roma 3-2 in the Stadio Olimpico in the last round (2-3 Correct score 80/1).
The Brazilian striker Willian (16/1 first scorer, 6/1 anytime) has recently declared that he is flattered by speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea. The Blues were surely impressed by his two goal haul in the second leg against Roma at the Donbass Arena. Speaking of Shakhtar's headquarters, the Donbass has crucially, been a fortress for the Ukrainian champions. Since moving there in 2009, Donetsk are still yet to taste defeat in Europe, and if they can hold Barcelona to a draw (9/2) or even just a narrow loss (Barcelona by one goal 3/1) then I'm certain that skipper Dario Srna would be confident of leading his men to victory.
Former Arsenal striker Eduardo (10/1 first scorer, 7/2 anytime) has scored four goals from just six shots on target in the Champions League this season. The Brazilian born Croatia striker will be hoping to get one over on the team that eliminated his former club, one that he says he holds very close to his heart. The stats do show that the team that has knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League in the last seven seasons has gone on to lose their next knockout match.
My recommendations for this game all involve a Barcelona win but I'm just not certain by what score. Barcelona/Barcelona is priced at 11/20 in the double result market but that is just too short for me. I would go for the little magician Andres Iniesta to score at anytime and Barcelona to win at 11/5.