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Shakhtar roused for debutants Nordsjælland

Disappointed by last year's group stage exit, Mircea Lucescu says FC Shakhtar Donetsk have been preparing for matchday one, and the visit of FC Nordsjælland, for ten months.

Mircea Lucescu thinks Shakhtar and Nordsjælland play in a similar way
Mircea Lucescu thinks Shakhtar and Nordsjælland play in a similar way ©Getty Images

Stung by finishing bottom of their section last season, FC Shakhtar Donetsk are aiming to use that disappointment as a spur when they start their UEFA Champions League Group E campaign against debutants FC Nordsjælland. The Danish side, meanwhile, are "honoured to be here" and, in the words of their coach, go into the game as "huge underdogs".

Coach Mircea Lucescu
We have been preparing for tomorrow's match for ten months, since the home defeat by Porto that ended our chances of reaching the knockout stage. We were all disappointed with last season's fourth-place finish in the group so we did our best to compensate by winning the Ukrainian championship and cup.

We were a bit unlucky with the draw, because it contains the champions of Italy [Juventus] and Denmark together with European champions Chelsea. On the other hand, top-level teams motivate us. We believe in our strengths and I dare say Shakhtar will play more attractive football than any of our opponents.    

Last season everyone considered APOEL underdogs in our group, but they reached the quarter-finals – it was a perfect lesson for everyone. There are no weak sides in the Champions League.

Nordsjælland have a lot in common with us and shift from defence to attack as we do. We are similar in terms of set pieces and many other aspects. I also want to highlight their discipline and tactical skills. We may have more skilful players and that allows us to play with more variation than Nordsjælland. Perhaps Nordsjælland's only major shortcoming is their lack of Champions League experience, which can be vital.

Weekend result
Saturday: FC Zorya Luhansk 0-3 Shakhtar (Alex Teixeira 41, Mkhitaryan 62, Luiz Adriano 65)
Pyatov; Ilsinho, Rakitskiy, Chygrynskiy, Shevchuk; Stepanenko, Fernandinho, (Dentinho 67), Douglas Costa (Mkhitaryan 58), Willian, Alex Teixeira; Eduardo (Luiz Adriano 58).

• Lucescu's side claimed their 19th Premier League win in a row, continuing to improve a national record.

• Henrik Mkhitaryan scored his 12th goal in nine outings this season, already his best haul since arriving in Ukraine in 2009.

• In nine league games this term Shakhar have scored three or more goals on eight occasions. 

Team news
Shakhtar are at full strength after Lucescu confirmed that Marko Dević has fully recovered from a muscle injury sustained on international duty.

Coach Kasper Hjulmand
We are honoured to be here. We're humble, but humbleness will disappear with our first steps onto the pitch. We'll try to do our best. We're going into this match as huge underdogs, but we're looking forward to playing with pride and joy.

We're almost certain that [Mikkel] Beckmann is ready – he'll train today. I was forced to substitute him on Saturday, but we think he may play. You cannot hide anything at this level. Shakhtar have done their homework, I know they have done everything to ensure they know all about us. The time has gone when you could be surprised by your opponents.

Shakhtar try to attack as much as possible, no matter who they play at this stadium. The way they play, the way their players think on the pitch, is very attacking. They press very aggressively and pass the ball forward at every opportunity.

Weekend result
Saturday: FC København 2-1 Nordsjælland (Vetokele 71, Cornelius 79; Parkhurst 45)
Hansen; Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga; Christensen (Laudrup 81), Stokholm, Adu; John (Christiansen 65), Beckmann (Nordstrand 44), Lorentzen.

• Nordsjælland suffered their second defeat of the Super League season and are now six points adrift of leaders FCK.

• Michael Parkhurst scored his third league goal of the campaign; he managed a solitary league strike in his first four seasons – and 90 games – at the club.

Team news
Mikkel Beckmann, who suffered a thigh injury on Saturday, trained at the Donbass Arena.

Match fact
This is the teams' first competitive meeting, though they did come face to face in a friendly on 1 February 2011 in Elche, Spain. Shakhtar were 3-1 winners in the Copa del Sol quarter-final thanks to goals from Mkhitaryan, Alex Teixeira and Dmytro Chygrynskiy – Matti Lund Nielsen scored Nordsjælland's late reply.

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