Our prediction for this Europa League match:
All eyes will be on Oblasny SportKomplex when Shakhtar Donetsk and Benfica face each other in the first leg of the Europa League last 32 on Thursday evening. The Miners suffered a 3-0 loss to Atalanta in their last group game in the Champions League, and, as a result, they failed to book their place in the last 16 of the elite competition. The Ukrainians have big ambitions for the Europa League knockout stages, and we believe that they are capable of making life difficult for Benfica in front of home fans.
Considering that the Eagles are fully focused on winning the Primeira Liga title race with Porto, we are tempted to put our money on Luis Castro’s charges. A man to keep an eye on in the home team will be Junior Moraes, who has been scoring goals for fun in all competitions this season.
Highlighted Player (Oleksiy Shevchenko):
Oleksiy Shevchenko is a Ukrainian goalkeeper who was born in Dnipropetrovsk on February 24, 1992. The 188-cm tall shot-stopper played for his home-town club Inter Dnipropetrovsk during his youth career and he started his senior career at Metalurh Zaporizhya. Oleksiy Shevchenko made 13 appearances for Metalurh 2, while playing no more than 13 games for the first team.
In 2013 he moved to Dynamo Kyiv, but he was immediately sent on loan to Hoverla Uzhhorod. The Ukrainian goalkeeper played for the likes of Olimpik Donetsk, Torpedo Kutaisi and Dila Gori on loan as well before signing a contract with Zorya Luhansk in 2016.
Shevchenko made his debut for Zorya in the Ukrainian Premier League on April 10, 2016 in a 2-1 loss to Dnipro. He quickly established himself as a first-team regular at Zorya and he did well to keep ten clean sheets in 25 appearances for Zorya in the 2016/2017 Ukrainian Premier League campaign. Shevchenko received his first call-up for the Ukraine national football team in October 2016 for 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Turkey and Kosovo.
Highlighted Team (Benfica):
Member of the ‘Big Three’ clubs in Portugal alongside FC Porto and CP Sporting, Sport Lisboa e Benfica are the football club that has never been relegated from the Primeira Liga. The club is nicknamed Aguias because of the Eagle symbol atop the club’s crest. Benfica play their home games at the Estadio da Luz which replaced the original one in 2003 and which boasts the capacity of more than 64,000. Arguably the most successful club in Portugal, Benfica have won a record of 35 Primeira Liga titles and also a record 25 Taca de Liga and 7 Taca da Liga trophies.
Two-time European Cup winners, Benfica are the club known for their diligent work with youth players, many of which went on to make great careers abroad. The most prominent players to wear a Benfica shirt are legendary Eusebio, Manuel Bento, Jorge Tavares and most recently Javier Saviola, Nuno Gomes, David Luiz and Angel Di Maria.