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By Alex O'Henley in Glasgow
Celtic FC manager Martin O'Neill admitted that his side must take all three points from Tuesday's UEFA Champions League encounter at home to FC Shakhtar Donetsk if the Scottish champions are to have any hope of staying in European competition this season.
The Glasgow outfit have lost all three matches in Group F so far, including a 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture in the Ukraine a fortnight ago. A second defeat, and a positive result for FC Barcelona at home against AC Milan, would end Celtic's hopes of earning even the consolation prize of a UEFA Cup berth, and O'Neill believes that victory is essential for his side.
"It's pretty obvious that for us to remain in European football we've got to win the game and that will be our target," said the Celtic manager. "It's a difficult game for us but we want to make it a difficult game for Shakhtar. They will be extremely pleased with their victory over us and I’m sure they're coming here with plenty of confidence."
Celtic have the joint worst defensive record in the competition this season, having already conceded nine goals. The Scottish side's defensive frailties have also been apparent on the domestic front recently, as a first defeat of the season, at home to Aberdeen FC, was followed by an unconvincing 3-2 win away to Motherwell FC on Saturday.
The situation is compounded by a string of injury problems. English striker Chris Sutton is ruled out with a chest injury and there are question marks over the fitness of defenders Bobo Balde, Stanislav Varga and Joos Valgaeren. On a more positive note, midfield player Alan Thompson returned to first-team action at the weekend following a hamstring strain sustained in the 3-1 defeat at Milan, while Senegalese forward Henri Camara should have recovered from an ankle knock.
Irrespective of the players available, top scorer John Hartson is confident Celtic can overcome their Ukrainian visitors. "It's not like we're playing Barcelona or Milan who are full of quality players," said the Welsh striker. "Yes,
Shakhtar have some good players, especially Matuzalem who scored two good goals in the first game. We know he's a big threat, but it's a game we can definitely win. They're a decent side but I think they’re beatable."
Meanwhile, Shakhtar arrived confident they could repeat their success against Celtic of two weeks ago and go on to reach the knockout stage of the competition. "The first game is history," said manager Mircea Lucescu. "It's another match and I know it will be very difficult here but we hope to get a positive result. If we win it's still possible to [progress]."
The manager's confidence was echoed by Nigerian striker Julius Agahowa who believes Shakhtar can win in Glasgow provided they can keep Hartson in check. "John Hartson is a difficult player to play against," Aghahowa told uefa.com. "He holds the ball up well and Celtic build attacks through him. A draw is not good enough for us.
We are here to get three points and I think I will be able to score against Celtic."
Brazilian forward Brandão, who scored in the first game, has been ruled out for the Ukrainians, however, while full-back Razvan Rat is a doubt. Lucescu also has concerns over the match fitness of strikers Agahowa and Ciprian Marica, but captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Matuzalem are both fit after recovering from recent injuries.
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