Mircea Lucescu is ready to release FC Shakhtar Donetsk from their shackles when they host an FC Viktoria Plzeň side who must score to keep their last-16 prospects alive.
Article top media content
FC Shakhtar Donetsk will revert to a more adventurous approach when they host FC Viktoria Plzeň in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 decider on Thursday.
Those were the sentiments of wily coach Mircea Lucescu, whose side salvaged a 1-1 draw in the Czech Republic last week by playing it safe. "It was a tough game against strong opponents, but it was our first competitive match since the winter break," said Lucescu, who steered Shakhtar to UEFA Cup glory in 2009. "Our intention was not to take too many risks and control the game. We had not planned to attack from the first minute because we wanted to avoid getting hit on the counter."
The Ukrainian title holders were forced out of their shells, however, when Stanislav Tecl opened the scoring after half-time. Luiz Adriano responded for the Pitmen three minutes later. "We had three or four good opportunities, but then made a silly mistake in our area from which Plzeň scored," the 68-year-old added. "They had created very little before the goal, and after that we had to take some chances. It was a brilliant pass from Darijo Srna for the equaliser."
This time the onus is on the home team, with Lucescu encouraging his charges to be proactive while keeping one eye on their defensive duties. "We have to win and I'm expecting a difficult night. We will try and control the game, set a high tempo and score goals," he said. "It is also important to be prepared for their counterattacks and avoid goals from set pieces. Plzeň have been excellent away from home in the Europa League."
Indeed, Plzeň are four matches unbeaten on their travels in the competition, a sequence that includes their stunning 3-0 win at SSC Napoli at this stage last season. It means they journey to Donetsk with confidence and also respect, according to coach Dušan Uhrin Jr. "Of course I realise how powerful Shakhtar's attack is, but I would not say we are afraid of them," he stressed. "We will play our own game.
"Shakhtar will play their way too, trying to control the ball. We must take any chances that come our way. We need to score." To that end he may rely on Tecl, who claimed another two goals in Sunday's 2-1 Czech First League victory at FC Baník Ostrava, though suspension and injury respectively deprive him of David Limberský and Marek Hanousek. "We need to be fully focused," concluded Uhrin. "I would be satisfied with 2-2 or a win."