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Credit must be given to FC Shakhtar Donetsk for having survived the ravages of the Ukranian civil war and come out next best to Manchester City in the Group F cluster of the UEFA Champions League of 2017-18.
The Ukrainian side has progressed to the Round of 16 as a result where they will host Roma at the Metalist Stadium for the 1st leg encounter of this knock-out stage. That Shakhtar will be a very difficult side to beat at home is borne out by the fact that the Miners handed Pep Guardiola's City one of their rare defeats of the season. Not just that, they also prevailed over their other Group opponents Napoli and Feyenoord at the same venue. So when Roma visit Donetsk they should expect the going to be very tough.
Roma's campaign on the road does not inspire much confidence despite having emerged leaders in the Group C cluster. The only away game they won in the Group stage was against minions FC Qarabag.
While Shakhtar top the Ukrainian Premier League, Roma have been struggling to keep themselves inside the Top Four of the Serie A in the ongoing 2017-18 season. The Giallorossi have just come out of a horrific six-match spell in the December-January phase where they were not able to register a single win. But two back-to-back successes against Hellas Verona and Benevento seems to have restored some of that lost confidence. Roma have a somewhat tough domestic weekend outing away at Udine before they travel to Ukraine.
Coming to next week's clash at the Metalist stadium, the importance of an away goal for the Rome side cannot be over-emphasized. In Eden Dzeko, Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti, they have the caliber of men to achieve just that. Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will probably adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation where the likes of Shaarawy, Perotti and Cengiz Under will play behind the lone striker Dzeko. The 20-year old Turkish find for Roma, Under, who was so deadly playing on the right wing in Giallorossi's 5-2 over Benevento on Saturday will be expected to shine at Donetsk.
Shakhtar will of course be handicapped by lack of match practice thanks to the long winter break commencing early December. The Miners brilliant domestic campaign was somewhat marred by a defeat in their final match before the break to 4th placed Zorya Luhanskaway away at Zaporizhia. The hosts will bank on the skills of center-forward Facundo Ferreyra (the Ukrainian league's highest scorer) to get as many as goals as they can before they travel to Roma for the second leg in early March. Bernard, who has alone accounted for 6 of the 9 goals Shakhtar had scored in the Group stages of the Champions league will be another threat to the Roma defense at the Metalist stadium.
For Roma, a defeat, but with a score-line reading not worse than 1-2, could also be considered as a good result, keeping in mind the overwhelming advantage they will have playing at home in the second leg. Expect Roma to come away with that vital away goal in Wednesday's Donetsk clash.