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Group G rivals expect a race to the wire

Published: Thursday 25 August 2011, 20.56CET
UEFA Europa League winners FC Porto expect stern tests from FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Zenit St Petersburg, whose coach Luciano Spalletti also identified the threat posed by APOEL FC.

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Published: Thursday 25 August 2011, 20.56CET

Group G rivals expect a race to the wire

UEFA Europa League winners FC Porto expect stern tests from FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Zenit St Petersburg, whose coach Luciano Spalletti also identified the threat posed by APOEL FC.

Representatives of FC Porto, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Zenit St Petersburg agreed that there are three obvious candidates for the top two places in UEFA Champions League Group G, but all three have reason to be wary of APOEL FC, with the Cypriot champions making their second appearance in the group stage.

We have had positive results against sides from the former Soviet Union; we have knocked out Shakhtar in the past and also Dynamo Kyiv [in the semi-finals] on our way to winning the 1987 European Cup
Fernando Gomes, Porto ambassador
Each match will be very important, but the most crucial game will be against Zenit, because people like to compare the Ukrainian and the Russian leagues
Taras Stepanenko, Shakhtar midfielder
It could have been worse; we might have got teams like Barcelona, Internazionale or Arsenal
Viktor Fayzulin, Zenit midfielder

Fernando Gomes, Porto ambassador
Our three opponents all have international players from their countries and top coaches. This is one of the most difficult groups, but one of Porto's strengths is facing difficulties. We have had positive results against sides from the former Soviet Union; we have knocked out Shakhtar in the past and also Dynamo Kyiv [in the semi-finals] on our way to winning the 1987 European Cup. APOEL are very difficult at home, because of their supporters and the quality of their players. Porto have the most prestige and titles, but that is not enough to win games. We will have to take it seriously.

Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar coach
I'd say Shakhtar, Porto and Zenit all have an approximately equal chance to qualify for the knockout stage. On paper, Porto are a favourite because they were seeded in Pot 1, but Shakhtar's potential is no less than that of the Portuguese champions. The presence of Zenit makes our group very even. Luciano Spalletti and I know each other very well, since he coached AS Roma. His side have great players. However, we may have some problems with APOEL as well. No one should underestimate this club and treat them as clear underdogs. The club that loses points against APOEL will most probably miss out on going through.

Taras Stepanenko, Shakhtar midfielder
We have every chance of getting a good result. There are three equally strong teams in our group. It will be exciting to play in every match; Porto won the Europa League last season, Zenit have done well in the Champions League before and are going strong in their league this term. APOEL are also a good side. Each match will be very important, but the most crucial game will be against Zenit, because people like to compare the Ukrainian and the Russian leagues.

Luciano Spalletti, Zenit coach
They are not the strongest opponents on paper. The main thing is to not get carried away thinking we're the favourites and most cunning team in the group. It's hard to play in Cyprus, where the fans support their team with great desire. APOEL also have three very skilful players up front and as for Shakhtar, everybody understands the power of their attack. Their Brazilians are technically gifted. For example, Douglas Costa. Porto have Hulk, Gustavo Varela, holding midfielder Fernando ... all of them are known throughout Europe, so it's hard to take on a team like this.

Viktor Fayzulin, Zenit midfielder
I'm pleased with the draw. It could have been worse; we might have got teams like Barcelona, Internazionale or Arsenal. We have a solid and interesting group. Porto and Shakhtar are about as good as us, and we'll compete with them for a place in knockout round. I've don't know anything about APOEL.

Last updated: 05/12/12 2.32CET

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