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Hübschman wary of maturing Barcelona

Tomáš Hübschman played for FC Shakhtar Donetsk when they defeated FC Barcelona 2-0 in December 2004 but the Czech international believes the Blaugrana will be a totally different proposition on Wednesday night.

Tomáš Hübschman has good memories of playing Barcelona
Tomáš Hübschman has good memories of playing Barcelona ©AFP

FC Shakhtar Donetsk defender Tomáš Hübschman has happy memories of the last time FC Barcelona visited the RSC Olympiyskiy Stadium and is hoping for a repeat of that 2-0 triumph from December 2004.

Happy memories
The victory ensured Shakhtar continued their European campaign in the UEFA Cup, while Barcelona were already assured of a top-two finish from the two clubs' UEFA Champions League group. This time, though, Shakhtar can have higher aspirations having begun their Group C programme with a 2-1 win at FC Basel 1893 on a night when FC Barcelona beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 3-1. But Hübschman, expected to anchor the Shakhtar midfield on Wednesday, recognises that with two Liga titles and one UEFA Champions League crown to their name since the teams' last meeting, Barcelona present a formidable challenge.

"They were much younger then," Hübschman said, "Such a huge talent as [Lionel] Messi, for example, had only just started playing in the Champions League. And since then he has improved substantially." Nor is Messi the only survivor of the 2004/05 encounter whose progress has impressed the 27-year-old Czech international. "[Xavi] Hernández and [Andrés] Iniesta were also very good, and they just get better having contributed greatly to Spain's triumph at UEFA EURO 2008™. But we have come on as well, and I think we are able to repeat that result."

Difficult task
Barcelona left-back Eric Abidal only arrived at the Camp Nou in summer 2007, so his sole experience of UEFA Champions League football in Ukraine came when Olympique Lyonnais defeated FC Dynamo Kyiv 3-0 in the preceding campaign. The 29-year-old reckons a similar result for his current club will be difficult to achieve. "Shakhtar are very strong, having lots of quality players," Abidal said. "It will be very tough but we'll try to beat them. I am confident our forwards will be able to score at least once or twice."

Domestic concern
While Barcelona have made a solid start to the Spanish Liga season with ten points from five games, Shakhtar have still to reach that tally after nine matches in Ukraine – where the titleholders lie eleventh in the 16-team table. Abidal, however, is paying little attention to Shakhtar's domestic strife. "There is a different motivation [in Europe], I think," the French international said. "We are conscious of how hard it is to take points off FC Shakhtar at their home ground, but I hope we'll play to our usual level and get the necessary result."