Former Dynamo Kyiv coach Jozsef Szabo has spoken out about Shakhtar Donetsk's current problems and given his forecast for the team's match against Belgian side Antwerp in the 2nd round of the Champions League group stage tomorrow.
- You know, I don't want to criticise Shakhtar, but I look at their game not as a fan, but as a coach. After the game against Vorskla (1-2), which I watched at the weekend, I got the impression that Shakhtar's players were somehow sluggish and stale.
Of course, I can't know what's going on inside Patrick van Leeuwen's team, but I'm almost certain that the Dutch specialist gave his players too much physical activity for them to handle. Simply put, he overloaded them.
"Shakhtar are not running now. There is no freshness in the game. And this is against the backdrop of Rukh, Vorskla and Veres, not the strongest teams in the Ukrainian Premier League at the moment.
Shakhtar's players are in a hole right now. How can they get out of it? I don't know. In this situation, only Valery Lobanovsky could help them.
- Mykola Matvienko might play in Antwerp. Can he improve the Pitmen's leaky defence?
- Firstly, you said it yourself, it's not a certainty that Mykola will play, and secondly, no. One player will not solve the problem with Shakhtar's poor back line, especially in the centre.
Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Dmytro Chygrynskiy are no longer young, they have lost their speed. This newcomer, the young one(Novatus Miroshi - ed.), his true level is not yet clear.
In the match against Porto (1-3), Shakhtar's defence was crushed, torn apart on the counterattack. Yes, Antwerp is not as strong an opponent as Porto, but they will not sit on the defensive in a home game either. The Belgians also received a full bag of goals in the first match. There were five, and if Barcelona wanted, there would be seven or eight.
This Antwerp team is a black horse for me, as well as for everyone in Ukraine. I'm sure that no one, apart from Shakhtar's coaching staff and players, follows this team's games in our country.
- The attack of Patrick van Leeuwen's team is not impressive either.
- This is the main problem. There is no "tip". Danylo Sikan, who played up front against Vorskla, is not up to the task of a scoring centre forward. And the point is not his rather young age (22).
Kevin Kelsey played well against Porto, but it was just a flash in the pan. This guy does not show a stable game either.
- Can a draw in Antwerp be considered an acceptable result for the Ukrainian club? You and I both understand that Shakhtar will definitely not get the first two places.
- I agree. Such a Shakhtar will have nothing to play for in the matches against Barcelona and Porto, as they say. It is with the Belgians that Shakhtar will fight for third place in order not to be eliminated from European competitions and continue to compete in the Europa League. You don't need to be Wang here.
Also, I am sure that in Belgium, Patrick van Leeuwen will not abandon the attacking tactics for the game, and given that Antwerp is not Barcelona or Porto, there are chances of success.
But... I said that many of Shakhtar's players have lost their way. This is the problem with this team. Patrick van Leeuwen can't bring discipline to the team.
- I am surprised by this, because I have heard on many occasions that this specialist is a pedant and a disciplinarian in the best German traditions.
- Igor Jovicevic worked very well at Shakhtar. Why was it necessary to replace Jovicevic? This question seems more incomprehensible to me.
I also don't understand why not all Shakhtar players work in defence. The best clubs in Europe don't play football like that nowadays. It cannot be that someone is sitting on clean balls in front.
- Should Patrick van Leeuwen be sacked now, after several local failures?
- And who will replace him? No one will come to Shakhtar from abroad. They are all scared because of the war in Ukraine. And inside Ukraine, all decent coaches have jobs.
You need to call either Viktor Skrypnyk from Vorskla or Yuriy Vernydub from Kryvbas. But it is not a given that Vernydub will leave everything in Kryvyi Rih for Shakhtar's offer.
- Your prediction for Shakhtar's match against Antwerp.
- It's difficult to predict when you have seen enough matches of only one team. I watch Shakhtar's games regularly, while I have only seen Antwerp against Barcelona. The Belgians seem to be not favourites, some say they are a weak team in general, but... My prediction is a 1-1 draw.