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Now in his seventh season at FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Brazilian striker Brandão feels the club is ready to make the next step and qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the first time, a target they could take a giant step towards with a home win over Sporting Clube de Portugal.
With the two clubs level on three points after two games in Group C, the 28-year-old is aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead. "We are up against very tough opponents so we expect a hard game," Brandão said, "but this match may be decisive for us - we are dreaming about the Champions League knockout stage. That is why only three points will do." In Shakhtar's Matchday 2 encounter with section leaders FC Barcelona, the home side were on course for victory after carrying a one-goal lead into the game's final five minutes. Lionel Messi then stunned the hosts, scoring twice late on to claim all three points for the visitors. "I'm sure our team will do their best in front of the home fans, and never let the kind of mistakes we saw in the previous match happen again," vowed Brandão.
Last season, Brandão was an ever-present in the UEFA Champions League as Shakhtar met another Portuguese club in the group stage, SL Benfica. The Ukrainian champions won away but then lost at home to confirm their last-place finish in the pool, but the forward feels that was a valuable learning experience for the squad. "What we have to do is remember all the lessons we were taught by our previous defeats," he added. "I think we have worked well on our weak points and are now ready to play fully focused until the end of the game."
Now one of the most experienced players in Shakhtar's squad, Brandão played his 50th game in UEFA club competitions against Barça. He is also the club's top goalscorer in European games having struck 15 times on the continental stage. However, only three of those have come in the UEFA Champions League (all at the expense of Celtic FC) and although he insists the team's result is all-important, scoring goals matters to him.
"Goals are important to me but not as much as the results of my team," he said. "No matter who scores it is Shakhtar winning that really counts for me." With countrymen Jadson, Fernandinho and Ilsinho already off the mark for the Donetsk club in this year's edition, Brandão would like nothing more than to take his domestic league form - where he has scored five times in eight matches - into Europe's premier club competition and help his club achieve their collective goal.
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