As Chelsea are set to visit the Donbass Arena later this evening, you may be fooled into thinking the Londoners are in for an evening of team that resemble Ivan Drago from the famous Rocky film. A team well drilled, imperiously disciplined with that stereotypical eastern European grit and determination. However this is simply not the case.
Under the gaze of veteran Romanian manager Mircea Lupescu, the Ukrainian club have undergone a rapid transformation within his 8 years as manager. From perennial underachievers to European contenders they are fast becoming a team to genuinely fear and subsequently they are now regular diners at the top table of European football. Currently ‘the miners’ are 12 points clear at the top of the Ukrainian Premier League table and go into the game against Chelsea without losing a game this season. This success is in large part due to their vast array of talent recruited from Brazil.
The Brazilian style now adopted by Shakhtar was expertly displayed against Juventus in their last UEFA Champions League match. The Ukrainian champions enjoyed almost 60 percent of possession but had to settle for a 1-1 draw after hitting the crossbar in stoppage time. The highly rated Willian, 24, was the pick of the Brazilians and his ability to spray passes casually around midfield with unerring accuracy makes him jewel within the crown and a player Chelsea will have to watch closely if they are to beat what fans have comically dubbed the home of the new Brazilian colony.
The squad currently contains ten Brazilian players, a deliberate policy implemented by Lucescu almost instantaneously when he took charge in 2004. Despite the obvious difficulties of adapting to life in a Ukrainian mining town, the policy has somewhat thrived with Shakhtar winning an impressive six league titles plus the UEFA Cup. The team's policy is simple enough: Its defence is mostly made up of robust Eastern Europeans; its midfield and attack is made up of Brazilians with an Armenian chucked in for good measure. This exciting yet intriguing mix means it works a bit like a Toyota secured on to a Maserati if you could imagine such a ludicrous idea. As Einstein once said “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”. In 2004 Lupescu had just that, a radical idea that by bringing South American flair and skill to a remote mining town in Eastern Ukraine it would bring trophies to a relatively average team at the time but thanks to the billions of Ukrainian Hryvnia pumped in by owner Rinat Akhmetov that idea has now flourished into reality and as a result Shakhtar are a team Chelsea will have to be very wary of in tonight’s UEFA Champions League encounter.
Do you think Chelsea can overcome Shakhtar's samba beat?
image: © jbl767