Even taken on its own merits Shakhtar Donetsk’s hosting of Lyon this Wednesday evening screams potential classic. The sides currently lie first and second in their respective leagues and included in their ranks are a plethora of ballers – from Taison to a rejuvenated Memphis Depay – who are nothing but a pleasure to watch.
Just seeing the hirnyky take on their French counterparts in a meaningless friendly would be enough frankly.
But then you get to the context and it swiftly becomes apparent that Shakhtar v Lyon is this week’s Champions League clash that you really don’t want to miss.
Only one team presently not topping their group – PSG – has been involved in games that has seen more goals than either side throughout the campaign so far and the expansive approach espoused by Paulo Fonseca and Bruno Genesio has led to a whole bunch of enthralling, high-scoring encounters that has made group F utterly exhilarating. In their previous five games apiece Shakhtar have drawn 2-2 on two occasions and completed a memorable 3-2 away victory at Hoffenheim last month courtesy of a dramatic last minute winner. Lyon for their part have also played out a brace of 2-2 draws while additionally enduring last-gasp heartbreak when Hoffenheim levelled in the 92nd minute in October to complete a six-goal thriller.
It was the Ukrainian side’s late, late winner in November though that has really set up this coming fixture, as until then the seven-time Ligue 1 winners were through to the knock-out stage with Shakhtar having to take consolation in Europa League demotion.
Not now though; now it’s all to play for with a win or draw sufficient for the visitors but facing an extremely tricky trip out east.
It’s an away commitment that has arguably got a little easier with UEFA’s decision this week to stage the fixture away from Kharkiv due to martial law being decreed in some areas of Ukraine. Instead the game will be staged in Kiev in the vast, imposing Olympic Stadium.
It’s a clash that promises much, not least high drama and almost certainly goals in abundance, and the same can be said of the two other groups that have gone right to the wire, groups that incidentally involve English sides. Suitably then the 888Sport Champions League odds that have Shakhtar as 5/4 favourites to win reveal a mixture of overly cautious bets and some genuine bargains to be found. Why? Because right now, with games becoming winner-take-all nobody knows for sure what this week will bring, and especially in the heady confines of Kiev featuring sides that score goals for fun.