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FC Shakhtar Donetsk go to NK Dinamo Zagreb leading their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round opponents 2-0 but the Croatian side are confident of progress – not least because of the visitors' domestic slump.
Dinamo have lost four times at this stage since their 1999/2000 victory against MTK Budapest, including defeats by Arsenal FC and Werder Bremen in the last two seasons, while Shakhtar are aiming for a fourth third qualifying round success in five years. However, despite the reverse in Ukraine a fortnight ago, Dinamo coach Branko Ivanković is not even contemplating the possibility of missing out on the competition proper. "We will reach the next stage, one hundred per cent," he said. "That's the only thing I am thinking about."
Ivanković is still without goalkeeper Tomislav Butina due to an adductor injury, so Ivan Kelava will start as in Donetsk. Midfielder Etto has a sore achilles and forward Josip Tadić an ankle problem, leaving Boško Balaban as the lone striker supported by Marijo Mandžukić. "The most important thing is to keep a clean sheet," Ivanković added. "We can't concede a goal. No way. We are going to win this match and get a great result. Shakhtar are especially dangerous from Darijo Srna free-kicks and corners, but I have talked to my players about that. We will play a pressing game but it's very hard to play pressing football against strong teams. I have belief. If Shakhtar don't reach the group stage it will be disaster for them, but we don't have such an imperative so it will be easier to play."
Ukrainian champions, Shakhtar have not finished outside the top two in their country since 1995/96. Hence the concern at their start to the Premier League campaign, where one win in six games has left them ninth in the table – the latest reverse being Saturday's 1-0 defeat at FC Vorskla Poltava. Coach Mircea Lucescu is making no excuses. "Because we conceded an early goal, it gave the opposition confidence. There are too many nerves creeping in, so players are making mistakes. The balance isn't quite right in the team and we have a lot of work to do." UEFA Champions League football would help, though Lucescu's difficulties have been compounded by injury to left-back Răzvan Raţ while Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho is still to achieve peak condition after returning from the Olympics.
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