Lucescu calls for Shakhtar focus

Coach Mircea Lucescu insists his FC Shakhtar Donetsk side must keep their concentration when they meet an SL Benfica team vying for a UEFA Cup slot in Group D.

Shakhtar's Fernandinho (left) vies with Konstantinos Katsouranis on Matchday 2
Shakhtar's Fernandinho (left) vies with Konstantinos Katsouranis on Matchday 2 ©Getty Images

They may be forced to wait on the result at San Siro to see if they progress, but coach Mircea Lucescu says his FC Shakhtar Donetsk side must keep their focus as they face an SL Benfica team vying for a UEFA Cup place.

Late setbacks
Shakhtar began their UEFA Champions League Group D campaign with back-to-back victories, yet a subsequent run of three defeats means they go into Matchday 6 needing to win and hope that already-qualified AC Milan beat Celtic FC. Should they fail to reach the knockout rounds, Shakhtar will look back with some regret. The Ukrainian Premier League outfit were holding Milan until midway through the second half in their last home game before eventually losing 3-0; and last week a last-gasp Massimo Donati strike denied them a share of the spoils at Celtic.

"Our biggest problem is that we tend to lose concentration at the key moments; when we conceded in the dying seconds in the Celtic match proves that," said Lucescu. "But I hope that will change and we will have luck on our side in the future. It is vital to maintain focus right until the very last seconds because even the slightest mistake can mean conceding a goal." They shipped none in Lisbon on 3 October when Jadson's goal earned Shakhtar the points, and a repeat outcome would ensure a UEFA Cup Round of 32 berth at the least.

Full strength
Lucescu only has eyes for the UEFA Champions League, however, and having cancelled their weekend fixture against FC Zorya Luhansk, his side have benefited from a well-earned rest. "We have no absentees. Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Zvonimir Vukić and Brandão had minor problems but all of them should be fit to play," said Lucescu, who also welcomes back Fernandinho from suspension. "We have to win but let's not forget that Benfica have the same goal. They produced top-class football in both games against Celtic and in their home tie with Milan. Benfica have improved and have gained some confidence."

'Extra motivation'
The Portuguese club require victory to snatch third position in the section and although they suffered their first Liga defeat of the season at the weekend to FC Porto, Lucescu believes the "loss will make Benfica angrier and give them extra motivation". It is a view echoed by his counterpart José Antonio Camacho, who said: "The Porto result has not affected the condition of our team. It is not a tragedy. We will take to the field focusing only on Shakhtar and getting the right result. We will be ready to show the best we have got to give."

'Key to success'
Camacho will be without the suspended Augustin Binya while Fábio Coentrão (knee) and Cristián Rodríguez (thigh) are injured. Nélson is also doubtful as he struggles with a thigh problem yet the Benfica coach insists there will be no excuses. "We will only settle for a win in Donetsk because that is our only chance of continuing in European competition this term," he said. "The key to success will be doing what we failed to do at home against Shakhtar – taking our opportunities."