FC Shakhtar Donetsk may have little at stake in their final Group C fixture at FC Barcelona, but for defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, just playing "in a stadium as legendary as Camp Nou" is enough to send a shiver down the spine.
The main business in Group C was completed on Matchday 5 when Barcelona clinched top spot with a 5-2 win at closest challengers Sporting Clube de Portugal, while Mircea Lucescu's side secured third place and a UEFA Cup spot by overwhelming FC Basel 1893 5-0, their record score in UEFA competition. Chygrynskiy missed that triumph because of a thigh injury, but he is doing all he can to ensure he is fit to face the Spanish Liga leaders.
"We played very well against them in Donetsk but our own stupid mistakes robbed us of a win," he told uefa.com. "Now we want to prove that defeat was not a fair reflection of the game." With the Ukrainian Premier League now in hibernation for the winter break, Chygrynskiy cannot think of a better place to round out Shakhtar's year. "I'm happy to finish the year with a game in a stadium as legendary as Camp Nou. There is no doubt both teams will play some spectacular football."
Shakhtar will be looking to end a punishing first half of the season on a high note. A run of five successive league wins, including the scalp of rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv, has improved the mood, though Shakhtar remain a distant 12 points behind Dynamo. Their UEFA Champions League form has also left much to be desired, with a pair of wins against Basel all they have to show from five matches so far.
Things might have been so different. Shakhtar led Barcelona 1-0 with three minutes remaining on Matchday 2, only for the visiting side to hit back with two Lionel Messi strikes to claim the points at the RSC Olympiyskiy Stadium. Messi's winner came four minutes into added time and seemed to knock the stuffing out of Shakhtar, who then lost back-to-back matches against Sporting to end their hopes of advancing.
"I think we deserved more than we got in the group," the 22-year-old said. "We should have been able to get the better of Sporting. I can't think of one reason why we failed to do so. We seemed to have enough experience as we were participating in the group stage for a third consecutive season. We have quality players and a famous coach, but we still can't reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League. It seems everyone didn't play to their best this autumn."
Speculation surrounding Lucescu's future has not helped matters, but Chygrynskiy, who played in every minute of Shakhtar's league campaign prior to his recent injury, jumped to the coach's defence. "This season we have been paying much more attention to defending collectively," he said. "Yes, we conceded too many goals at the beginning of the season but since then we have defended much better and have kept four successive clean sheets in the league, as well as one in the game against Basel."
Chygrynskiy, capped 13 times by Ukraine, came through the youth ranks under Lucescu at Shakhtar. His career has been on a constant upward curve and he is ambitious for more, including greater exposure to the continental stage although he feels it is too early to discuss club president Rinat Akhmetov's target of winning a European trophy. "I hope we do well in Barcelona and later on in the UEFA Cup. We must only think about winning our next fixture and, if we do that, success will follow. The president, coach, players and fans are all dreaming of that."
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