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Lucescu demands maximum return

FC Shakhtar Donetsk play host to Sporting Clube de Portugal with the teams level on three points and both coaches intent on three more, Mircea Lucescu underlining that the home side "can afford nothing but victory".

Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu ©Getty Images

Sporting Clube de Portugal have reason for optimism against FC Shakhtar Donetsk but home coach Mircea Lucescu says his side will be "reckoning on three points" from the Group C encounter.

Unflattering impression
Sporting may have an unflattering impression of Ukrainian football after beating Shakhtar's rivals FC Dynamo Kyiv twice in last season's group stage, but Lucescu insists his side will not be looking for "revenge for Kyiv" or to protect "Ukrainian football's reputation". "The most important thing is to get three points from this game," the 63-year-old said. "If we want a chance of progressing to the knockout stage we can afford nothing but a win. We're aware the task will be very difficult, but with a full stadium on our side we're reckoning on three points."

Two absentees
Lucescu's optimism has been dented by the news that in-form defender Ilsinho has been ruled out for the rest of 2008 with a broken foot and by an appendix operation that has robbed him of Luiz Adriano until next month. "Their absence is our biggest problem for the coming match," he said. "We will do all we can to find adequate replacements, but it's going to be hard." Ilsinho and Luiz Adriano were already out of contention when Shakhtar played FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih on Saturday, and Lucescu can only have been encouraged his side won 4-2 without them. However, Shakhtar must be wary of a warning from history. Last season they beat Sporting's rivals SL Benfica 1-0 in Lisbon but lost 2-1 at home to put an early end to their European campaign.

'Forewarned is forearmed'
After taking six points off Dynamo last season, Sporting coach Paulo Bento intends to do the same again against their Ukrainian rivals. "I think it will be more difficult," he said. "My desire is to win both of our meetings with Donetsk, but four points would also please me. We know how much effort it will take to earn points here, but I expect my team to be at their best. Shakhtar play dynamic, aggressive football which is based on the great individual quality of their players, but we're aware of their strengths. Forewarned is forearmed."

Liedson back
Bento will be looking for a lift as Sporting, who lie second in Group C level on three points with Shakhtar, struggle to find their feet in the Portuguese Liga. It is over two weeks since they last played a league match so there has been no opportunity to make amends for bitter back-to-back defeats against rivals SL Benfica and FC Porto, though Saturday's victory against UD Leiria in the Portuguese Cup has improved the mood somewhat. Best of all, however, was seeing striker Liedson back among the goals in his first start after five months out with a knee injury. Marat Izmailov is fit again and will also add to Bento's options, but Simon Vukčević misses out with flu and Marco Caneira is yet to recover from a stomach muscle problem. "The two games against Shakhtar are likely to decide whether we progress," Bento said. "We expect a very hard but interesting match."