Mircea Lucescu believes FK Partizan have undergone a transformation since losing 4-1 at FK Shakhtar Dontesk a year ago as the champions of Ukraine and Serbia prepare to meet again.
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FC Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu warned that their first opponents in UEFA Champions League Group H, FK Partizan, are "much better" than when his side beat the Serbian team 4-1 at home a year ago in the UEFA Europa League. Indeed, a run of 37 league outings unbeaten has given Aleksandar Stanojević's men an air of invincibility.
Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar coach
The Champions League is very important for the image of our club. I think we have a team which is strong enough to get through the group stage. But I'm sure our opponents have the same idea: that's why it will be very difficult to achieve our goal. We need to play twice as well as we do in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Partizan are much better than the team that played us in the Europa League last season. Under their new coach, Aleksandar Stanojević, they have beaten everyone. Their long unbeaten run gives them confidence. Partizan have improved their tactics and are much better organised now, but we need to find and exploit their weaknesses.
Aleksandar Stanojević, Partizan coach
I'm a young coach, a beginner, and our team is a combination of youth and experience. We will try to get all we can out of this wonderful opportunity to compete in the Champions League. The young players want to prove their ability – they know people in every country in Europe are watching them. The older players want to end their careers with dignity.
Shakhtar have not changed since our last meeting. They bought a very good Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa last winter and are still very strong. Only two or three of the players who will play tomorrow came up against Shakhtar a year ago. Is that an advantage? Let's see.
Fernandinho is out of the group stage after breaking his leg at FC Obolon Kyiv on Friday; defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy is also missing with a pulled hamstring.
Mladen Krstajić underwent an operation on his broken nose on Sunday.
10/09/10 FC Obolon Kyiv 1-0 Shakhtar
Shakhtar's 25-game unbeaten run in the Ukrainian Premier League came to an end in a match overshadowed by Fernandinho's broken leg. Henrik Mkhitaryan made his debut but Shakhtar failed to score for the first time in 15 league matches.
11/09/10 Partizan 3-0 FK Rad
(Boya 48 77, Petrović 69)
Pierre Boya made a brilliant return on his first appearance for Partizan since leaving three years ago. Stefan Savić made his debut as the titleholders maintained their unbeaten start to the Super League; their last loss in that competition was on 10 May 2009, 37 games ago.
Did you know?
This is a quick reunion for these teams who faced each other last season in the UEFA Europa League group stage. Shakhtar won 4-1 in Ukraine, while in the return Partizan obtained a measure of revenge with a 1-0 win secured by Lamine Diarra's early strike.
See the match background for more information.