FC Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu hopes they can salvage their European season by beating FC Barcelona.
By Igor Linnyk
FC Shaktar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu faces a number of selection problems ahead of the Ukrainian side's final game in this season's UEFA Champions League, at home against FC Barcelona.
UEFA Cup chance
With the Spanish team and Italian champions AC Milan already having secured the top two places in Group F, Shakhtar currently lie at the foot of the section with three points, one behind Celtic FC. Yet there remains something to play for in the shape of the UEFA Cup place which goes to the third-ranked team and Shakhtar must better Celtic's result at home to Milan in order to overhaul the Scottish champions.
Three points needed
"We realise that the Barcelona game is very important for us," Lucescu said. "I think both teams will play for victory as a draw would suit nobody. A draw might leave Barça second in the group, and for us it will possibly not be enough. We need the victory."
However, the Shakhtar must cope with the absences of wing-back Razvan Rat and striker Ciprian Marica through injury, while captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk is doubtful and may only be fit enough for a place on the substitutes' bench. Defender Flavius Stoican has recently returned to training after injury, but is unlikely to play, meaning Mariusz Lewandowski could well be pushed forward into central midfield, with the in-form Nenad Lalatovic replacing Rat in defence.
Despite the reshuffle and the fact that Shakhtar lost their last Champions League match 4-0 in Milan, Lucescu feels that Thursday's 3-1 league victory against FC Volyn Lutsk has proved a timely boost, saying: "We needed a win against Volyn to give us some confidence.
"We played very well, we were organised and did not make mistakes like we did in the second half against Milan," the coach continued. "This mind-set makes me confident ahead of the Barcelona match. If we are to continue to play as we did in the first half against Milan, if we are more aggressive in defence, then Barcelona are going to have problems - although
I think they are playing the most beautiful football in the world at the moment."
Beautiful football or not, Barcelona slipped two points behind group leaders Milan when they were held 1-1 at home against Celtic a fortnight ago and only if the Italians lose can Barça overtake them at the top. However, coach Frank Rijkaard stressed that finishing first was "not our most important goal".
Rijkaard added: "In this situation not everything depends on us and it's more important to keep the players fit and produce some good football. I like our opponent and I think the match is going to be tough. They're playing one of the most famous teams in Europe at their own stadium - you think it's not enough to motivate Shakhtar players?"
There could be some fresh faces on the Barcelona bench with youngsters Rubén Martínez, Rodri, Lionel Messi, Javito and Verdú all included in the party. One player who did not travel to Donetsk was Frenchman Ludovic Guily who hurt his hamstring in a charity match last week and sat out the 4-0 win at Málaga CF on Saturday.