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Shakhtar shaping up well

Published: Thursday 10 March 2005, 10.06CET
Ukrainian league leaders FC Shakhtar Donetsk are on song as they welcome fellow high-fliers AZ Alkmaar.

Tournament statistics

Shakhtar DonetskAZ

Goals scored4
Attempts on target4
Attempts off target0
Fouls committed0
Yellow cards11
Red cards0


Published: Thursday 10 March 2005, 10.06CET

Shakhtar shaping up well

Ukrainian league leaders FC Shakhtar Donetsk are on song as they welcome fellow high-fliers AZ Alkmaar.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk have used their UEFA Cup Round of 32 victory against FC Schalke 04 as a springboard for an impressive start to the Ukrainian spring season, and will seek to continue that form with the visit of Dutch high-flyers AZ Alkmaar.

Brandão goals
Ukraine's Premier League reconvened after the winter break on 1 March, and Shakhtar started where they left off, Brazilian striker Brandão scoring twice in as many games to help his side defeat FC Illychivets Mariupil and FC Volyn Lutsk and remain a point above FC Dynamo Kyiv in the standings.

'Coach's dream'
Coach Mircea Lucescu believes his biggest concern is an embarrassment of riches, saying: "Igor Duljaj returned to training on Monday, while Ciprian Marica is also recovering. The competition for places is so great that I have major selection problems. But it's the kind of problem a coach dreams about.

Elano doubt
"The UEFA Cup is more important to us than the Premier League at the moment," added Lucescu, who has major doubts surrounding Elano Blumer after the Brazilian playmaker was substituted against Volyn with a muscle injury. "We are well aware of Alkmaar's strength; their results speak for themselves, they play some great football and have an experienced team who have been together for a long time."

Alkmaar frustrated
Alkmaar's preparations were hit by the weather as last weekend's eagerly awaited encounter with AFC Ajax was postponed, meaning Co Adriaanse's side were unable to put pressure on PSV Eindhoven at the top of the table. But while the team are flying high, Ali Elkhattabi is reluctant to follow suit and the striker's fear of flying means he misses the trip to Donetsk.

Individual expertise
Captain Danny Landzaat will travel despite a persistent ankle injury and is expected to play but Adriaanse is still not especially confident, saying: "We are certainly not favourites. Shakhtar have some well-known players who cost big fees, and it was not a coincidence they knocked out Schalke. Individually they are better then us, but that does not mean they are the better team.

Home vulnerability
"Shakhtar like to wait and then suddenly strike on the counterattack," Adriaanse went on. "In away matches that is more effective, because at home they have to take the initiative, and that is something they have trouble with. That is why I think they will be more vulnerable in Donetsk."

Last updated: 10/03/05 13.51CET