FC Shakhtar Donetsk need only a point at home to SC Braga to reach the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time and Mircea Lucescu is braced for "a serious struggle".
Article top media content
FC Shakhtar Donetsk have never reached the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds but need a point against SC Braga to top Group H. Mircea Lucescu predicts "a serious struggle" and is hoping his side have not lost their sharpness having not played since 28 November. Braga, level with second-placed Arsenal FC on nine points, are also in the hunt for the last 16 and coach Domingos Paciênca knows "anything is possible".
Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar coach
This is our last game of the year and we want success to fulfil our supporters' expectations. A very tough game awaits us; I hope my players aren't thinking about their holidays. I want them to be ready for a serious struggle. You will not see the Braga who started the tournament with two defeats. They have improved their game and have won their last three Champions League matches with clean sheets. I think they've decided to concentrate on their European campaign.
It was very difficult to fill the ten-day pause after our last league match. We could have prepared for the match in Turkey, but the weather meant we stayed in Donetsk. After so much training the lads are really eager to play, but there's always a danger of losing your competitive rhythm.
Domingos Paciênca, Braga coach
It's extremely hard to think of a more difficult task than having to win 4-0 against a team that hasn't lost at home for two years, but anything is possible in football. You always take to the pitch with the desire to win; that's our goal. I say, 'let's do our best to achieve it and see what happens'.
We'll use the same tactics and strategy we did at home against Shakhtar when a 3-0 defeat wasn't a fair result. We dominated for 75 minutes and the only reason we failed to score was because of a fantastic performance of Shakhtar goalkeeper [Andriy] Pyatov. The first Shakhtar goal that night broke our rhythm.
Henrik Mkhitaryan is fit after a viral infection but Fernandinho is out after breaking his right leg in September. Marcelo Moreno, Vitaliy Vitsenets and Olexandr Chyzhov are all doubtful with knocks.
Elderson and Paulão miss out with thigh strains but Moisés, substituted with a hip injury on Saturday, featured in Paciênca's 21-man squad along with three goalkeepers as the coach sweats on the fitness of Felipe. "I don't know who our keeper will be," he said. "Felipe missed the Leiria game with a thigh injury so I have to watch him in training. After that I'll decide whether he'll play or not." Matheus is nursing pain in his left knee.
• Shakhtar were not in action at the weekend having concluded their 2010 domestic programme with a 4-0 win at home to FC Arsenal Kyiv on 28 November. They go into the winter break 12 points clear at the top of the table. The league resumes on 5 March.
04/12/10 UD Leiria 3-1 Braga
(Carlão 20pen 27, Silas 88; Matheus 7)
Matheus scored his third goal in as many games but was sent off seven minutes from time as Braga finished with nine men. Substitute Miguel Garcia saw red after conceding the penalty from which Carlão equalised. Mossoró, who was among the substitutes, was also sent off late on for protesting from the touch line.
Did you know?
Shakhtar have played four European games at home to Portuguese visitors and are yet to win. The Ukrainian champions lost 1-0 to Sporting Clube de Portugal in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League group stage and SL Benfica the previous season. Visits by Boavista FC and FC Porto ended in 1-1 draws.
See the match background for more information.