Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk, UEFA Super Cup, August 28, 2009
Barcelonaâ€™s seemingly insatiable desire to secure silverware shows no signs of abating. After winning the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao last week, Pep Guardiola takes his star-studded side to Monaco to face Shakhar Donetsk in the European Super Cup.
It was easy to feel sorry for Athletic Bilbao as they began their 2009/2010 campaign with further defeats to Barcelona after they lost the Copa del Rey at the back end of last season. Whilst rivals Real Madrid have gutted their team and rebuilt it as â€œGalacticos mark II,â€ Barcelona have maintained their consistency by swapping Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Etoâ€™o and a shed load of cash.
How Zlatan gets on at the Nou Camp is set to be one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the season, there is no doubt that a front three of Ibrahimovic (4/1 to score first), Messi (EVS to score) and Henry (EVS to score) should be electric. That said, the goal scoring prowess of Samuel Etoâ€™o will still be missed.
The Swedish striker could well mark this occasion with his first goal for his new club and he wonâ€™t be short of service with Andres Iniesta (11/4 to score) expected to make his return after a long lay-off with a thigh injury.
The back-drop to this game has been marked by negotiations between these two clubs over Dmitro Chygrynskiyâ€™s move from Shakhtar to Barcelona. Pep Guardiola is a keen admirer of the Ukrainian central defender (“He knows how to play football, and we need to sign him”) and the European champions are expected to pay 25 million euros. As a result, at the time of writing this preview it is entirely possible that the 22-year-old centre back could play for either side, although in truth he will likely sit out the match.
Shakhtar surprised many by winning the last ever UEFA Cup last season, a competition they dropped into after a couple of epic games with Barcelona last season in the group stages of the Champions League. They were cruelly denied a victory over Barca in October as Lionel Messi scored in the 87th minute and then in injury time. The Ukrainian giants did get their revenge with a 3-2 win at the Nou Camp, although Barcelona had qualified from the group stages by this time.
Once in the UEFA Cup, Shakhtar, led by veteran coach Mircea Lucescu, surprised a whole host of famous teams including Tottenham, CSKA Moscow, Marseille, Dynamo Kiev and then in the final Werder Bremen.
The backing of chairman Rinat Akhmetov has been crucial to their rise as a European power and their investment in Brazilian talent has paid off handsomely. Barcelona will be wary of Ilsinho, Fernandinho (6/1 to score), Jadson (4/1 to score) and Willlian and it is fair to say that the technical showing on Friday night in Monaco should be of the highest standard.
The Ukrainians are unbeaten in nine games so far in 2009/2010 and progressed past Sivasspor 5-0 on aggregate in the Europa League earlier this week. Of course, Barcelona are a different proposition altogether but Shakhtar will be eager to stop the Catalan powerhouse, who could claim six trophies this season, and this has the potential to be a great game to watch.
101gg predicts: Barcelona 3 â€“ Shakhtar Donetsk 2 (33/1)
Full match odds here.