Shakhtar to face Barcelona after away drubbing
With a four-goal deficit to make up against Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, Shakhtar Donetsk will be looking to maintain its two-year unbeaten home record in European matches.
Barcelona beat Shakhtar 5-1 in the first leg, and could face Real Madrid four times in 18 days if the two teams advance as expected.
''Definitely, we have slim chances of advancing - everyone understands this,'' Shakhtar coach Mircea Lecescu said. ''But we would like to finish with our heads high. And we'll do our best for this. We will try to win the game.''
Besides playing each other in the league on Saturday, Barcelona will play Madrid in the Copa del Rey final and is set to face its biggest rival in the Champions League semifinals.
''Before Madrid we have to play Shakhtar and we've got a long trip to make,'' Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. ''We'll need to make a great effort to convince the players that they need to win this game.''
Forward Pedro Rodriguez said Barca ''don't take any team lightly, and certainly not Shakhtar.''
Lionel Messi's pair of goals in Barcelona's labored 3-1 win over Almeria on Saturday took the Argentina forward's overall total to 47 for the season, matching the record total scored by himself last year, and former Brazil striker Ronaldo in 1996/97.
Barcelona is without striker Bojan Krkic, who is out six to eight weeks with a knee injury sustained in the victory.
''It's a big deal for him and for us. He provides great spark. He's a special player, dynamic and with fresh legs,'' Guardiola said.
France defender Eric Abidal continues to recover from surgery to remove a liver tumor, while Guardiola is unlikely to rush center back Carles Puyol back from a knee injury that has sidelined him since January with Saturday's clasico match at Real Madrid looming.
The Ukrainian champion will have to do without influential captain Dario Srna, who was injured in the team's shock 1-0 home defeat by Obolon Kiev on Saturday, their first home loss in any competition for 2 1/2 years.
Srna will be joined on the sidelines by fellow full back Razvan Rat, who is suspended. Defenders Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Oleksandr Kucher are also doubts for the game, which could force Lucescu to field a weak and inexperienced defense.
Lucescu rested many of its best players for the game against Obolon, but will have been disappointed to lose to a late free kick, as its opponent was down to 10 men for most of the second half.
''We need to pick ourselves up and show character,'' Srna said. ''We're playing for the honor of our club, city and for the fans. I'm sure the players will give it their all to beat Barcelona.''
Lucescu criticized his second-string players afterward for not stepping up to the necessary level.
''We need to get over this (defeat) as soon as possible. We've got a match with Barcelona ahead ... it's important not to play like today for the sake of our image,'' the coach said.
Shakhtar could be boosted by the return of Brazilian playmaker Fernandinho, who came on as a substitute in the first game as he works his way back to fitness after several months out with a broken leg.