The Wolves’ last-16 match on Thursday (kick-off 21:00 CET) will take place behind closed doors as a result of measures taken to contain the coronavirus. Despite the absence of the home support, Oliver Glasner’s side are eager to put themselves in a good position ahead of the second leg on Thursday 19 March (kick-off 18:55 CET) in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The size of the task at hand is considerable, with VfL facing a team that has regularly competed in the UEFA Champions League in recent years.
That was the case this season too, after the Ukrainians secured a third successive domestic league title in 2018/19. However, after finishing third in their group behind Manchester City and Atalanta Bergamo, Shakhtar dropped down to the Europa League.
While the Wolves get the better of Malmö FF in the Round of 32, Shakhtar were given a tough draw against Benfica. Following a 2-1 win on home soil, they drew 3-3 with Luis Castro’s side in Lisbon to progress to the next stage, with Brazilian attacker Alan Patrick scoring in both games.
As many as 10 Brazilians feature in Shakhtar’s Europa League squad, giving the team a distinctly South American flavour, rather than a robust European one.
This tie is the second time VfL have come up against a Ukrainian team this season. In the group stage of the competition Glasner’s charges recorded 3-1 and 1-0 victories over PFK Oleksandriya, who are currently 22 points behind leaders Shakhtar in fifth spot in the country’s Premjer Liha.
Twelve-time Ukrainian champions Shakhtar, who earned a 4-3 win away to FC Kolos Kovalivka at the weekend, are undoubtedly a different class, therefore, and they already boast a major European title in their trophy cabinet: in 2008/09 they lifted the UEFA Cup after beating Werder Bremen 2-1 after extra time in the final.