The next big things and the players to look for
Fulham's reward for progressing beyond the new-fangled Europa League group stage is a mouth-watering tie with last season’s UEFA Cup winners, Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.
One of the most improved sides in Europe over the past decade, Donetsk have played in the Champions League group stages in three of the last six seasons.
Last season they recorded a famous 3-2 victory away to eventual European champions Barcelona, before dropping into the UEFA Cup.
If last season’s successful campaign is anything to go by, Shakhtar will be looking to keep things tight in the away leg and get the job done back at the new 51,000 capacity Donbass Arena.
If the Cottagers are to make progress to the next round, they’ll need to be at their best over the two legs, and will probably need to take some kind of advantage with them into next week’s return leg.
Roy Hodgson has, of course, instilled a very high work rate into his players at Craven Cottage, but Shakthar have a very technically gifted team, and will be more than capable of keeping them at arms length by retaining possesion, if they’re on form.
This time last year, the Ukrainians were also in London, facing Tottenham. Spurs rested many of their key players over that two-legged encounter with one eye on the upcoming Carling Cup final and another on their battle with relegation from the Premier League (yes, that is both eyes...)
Despite Spurs being considerably under strength, Shakthar needed defensive errors to score two late goals to win the home leg 2-0, before scrapping to a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.
While Fulham will be taking this tie more seriously, they will still be without the likes of Clint Dempsey, Andrew Johnson and John Paintsil through injury.
Expected Shakthar Donetsk line-up:GK PyatovDR SrnaDC KucherDC RakytskyyDL RatMR IlsinhoDM HübschmanMC JadsonMC FernandinhoML WillianFC Luiz Adriano
Three for Fulham to watch out for:
Name: Darijo SrnaDate of Birth: 01/05/1982Place of Birth: Metkovic (Croatia)Nationality: CroatianHeight: 182Weight: 78Position: Full Back, Wing-Back, Midfield (Right)Squad number: 33
Srna is a senior member of the Croatian national team, and the captain of Shakhtar Donetsk. He began his career at Hajduk Split in his native Croatia, and was on their books between 1999 and 2003, before moving to Ukraine.
The Croatian is no stranger to silverwear, having won the Croatian league title with Hajduk in 2001 and the Ukrainian Premier League with Shakhtar in 2005, 2006 and 2008. He also won the last ever UEFA Cup with Shakhtar last season.
Versatility is one of Srna’s biggest strengths and the 27-year-old can play in any position on the right flank, although he mostly turns out at right back for Shakhtar.
He is a player with a strong work ethic, and is an excellent passer and crosser of the ball. His deliver from set pieces is of the highest quality and he is also a reliable finisher.
Defensively he is sound, thanks largely to his good positional discipline, although he isn’t a brilliant tackler.
Name: Ilson Pereira Dias Júnior (Ilsinho)Date of Birth: 12/10/1985Place of Birth: São Bernardo do Campo (Brazil)Nationality: BrazilianHeight: 178Weight: 91Position: Full Back, Wing Back, Midfielder, Winger (Left/Right)Squad number: 11
Ilsinho started his career in his native Brazil with Palmeiras and Sao Paulo before moving to Shakhtar in 2007.
He won the Brazilian league in 2006, and was part of the Shakhtar side that won the Ukrainian title in 2008 and the UEFA Cup in 2009. He has featured in provisional squads for Brazil, although he is yet to make his full international bow.
The highly creative Brazilian is an exceptionally versatile, and can slot in at full back or wide midfield on either flank. He has excellent close control, first touch and dribbling skills – exactly as you’d expect from a Brazilian.
Like Srna, Ilsinho is a very attack-minded wide player. Should he start at left back this evening, he may leave space on the Fulham right which could be exploited – however he will more than likely start on the right side of midfield.
Name: Jadson Rodrigues Da Silva (Jadson)Date of Birth: 05/10/1983Place of Birth: Londrina (Brazil)Nationality: BrazilianHeight: 168Weight: 67Position: Attacking Midfielder (Centre/Right)Squad number: 8
Another Brazilian among the Shakhtar ranks, Jadson moved to Ukraine from Atletico Paranaense in 2003. Since then he has won three Ukrainian league titles and scored the winning goal in last season’s UEFA Cup final.
Jadson is an attacking midfielder with superb technical skills. He is often at the heart of Shakhtar’s best attacking moves. He can dribble well, has good creativity and vision, and is an excellent finisher when arriving in the box.
The Brazilian is a player reliant on skill, rather than physical play, so he could be bullied out of the game – something the likes of Dickson etuhu may want to bear in mind. His qualities as a midfielder are also more offensive than defensive, so he is not always thinking of defensive responsibilities and, much like with his compatriot Ilsinho, could leave space for Fulham to attack.
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