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Srna expects Shakhtar to make history

As FC Shakhtar Donetsk aim to oust AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, Darijo Srna is predicting a "historic event both for our club and for Ukrainian football".

Darijo Srna believes Shakhtar Donetsk are on the cusp of making history
Darijo Srna believes Shakhtar Donetsk are on the cusp of making history ©Getty Images

It is a moment FC Shakhtar Donetsk supporters have waited years for and, although their side are already in uncharted UEFA Champions League territory, there is a feeling of great expectancy in Donetsk that the Pitmen can continue digging deeper into a glorious unknown.

On Tuesday, Shakhtar, who have never before reached the knockout stage of Europe's elite club competition, defend a 3-2 aggregate lead after a round of 16 first-leg success at AS Roma. Their captain Darijo Srna, however, remains guarded against complacency even if he is confident of guiding the Ukrainian champions into the last eight.

"It is wrong to think the job has been done," said the Croatian international full-back. "Nevertheless, we have an excellent chance. I think the second leg against Roma will be a historic event both for our club and for Ukrainian football. The team deserved to win in Rome and achieved what we wanted. Every Shakhtar player showed what they were made of. We studied Roma very carefully and that was the key, but we must prove our quality again in Donetsk. I have no doubt Tuesday's match will be very difficult."

Although Shakhtar do not require a victory to qualify, the 28-year-old Srna insists the home crowd will continue to be treated to the attractive brand of attacking football that is coach Mircea Lucescu's hallmark. The hosts also have a proud record to protect: they have won their last 18 home matches in all competitions and have never lost at the Donbass Arena, which opened in 2009.

Indeed, Ukraine's Premier League leaders have to go back to 22 October 2008 to recall their last home defeat – a 1-0 reverse against Sporting Clube de Portugal on their old ground, the RSC Olimpiyskiy. "We will be looking for a goal from the start, because the home side always attacks more than the visitors," Srna went on. "I think we will play attacking football."

Olexiy Gai, who appeared in all six group matches but missed the game in Rome, agrees with his captain that the visit of the Giallorossi represents an occasion of great magnitude. "We are a step away from a historic achievement," said the Ukraine midfielder. "But it will be very tough to take that final step. I think this match will be even harder than the first leg in Rome."

Gai is also wary of the impact Vincenzo Montella's recent appointment as Roma coach may have on the Serie A outfit. "It is impossible to evaluate the situation in another team, but I think the managerial change could give Roma a major morale boost."

Defender Tomáš Hübschman, meanwhile, stressed that, whatever their problems, Roma remain opponents of the highest order. "It is too early to celebrate," warned the Czech international. "The game in Rome was just the first half. I only hope we play as well at the Donbass Arena as we did in Italy."

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