DONETSK, April 11 – Ukraine's reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk, already with a mountain to climb, come into their Champions League return with Spanish giants Barcelona on a back of a home league loss whereas their rivals continue to lord it in La Liga.Barca’s weekend success over Almeria ensured that their stylish 5-1 first leg home thumping of Donetsk did not distract them from the additional task of keeping Real Madrid at arm’s length.
Should Barca now complete the job they will earn another opportunity in the semi-finals to rub Real’s noses in the Catalan club’s apparent superiority – motivation in itself to take the return leg ultra seriously.
While Barca were motoring eight points clear of Real in the league, Shakhtar found their hitherto serene progress towards another title suffer a blip with a 1-0 home defeat by Obolon Kiev – although the leaders still have a healthy 11-point cushion over Dynamo Kiev.
The surprise reverse, courtesy of a goal from Obolon substitute Sergei Kucherenko, was Shakhtar’s first at the Donbass Arena since the 51,000-seater arena was opened in September 2009.
Although Barca coach Pep Guardiola has publicly warned there is work to do in the second leg he nonetheless has taken the opportunity to call in some fringe figures in the shape of B players Thiago Alcantara – on target against Almeria – Andreu Fontas and Jonathan dos Santos.
Even so, their call up is largely out of necessity as the Catalan giants, European champions in 1992, 2006 and 2009, must do without injured trio Eric Abidal, Carles Puyol and Bojan Krkic, while midfield general Andres Iniesta is suspended, hence the need for some fine tuning.
Striker Pedro said Sunday that the team would not let up in spite of their first leg lead.
"The team is in good form and winning games. We will not change the way we play – we will concentrate on the job against Shakhtar," said Pedro, while noting that "a tough month lies ahead" as the season enters its final furlong with major prizes beginning to swim within reach.
Shakhtar manager Miscea Lucescu was seriously upset Sunday despite Saturday’s loss which he blamed on a lack of concentration and motivation.
"We paid too little attention to our domestic rivals after a heavy defeat at Barcelona," Lucescu said. "We failed to keep our concentration right through to the final whistle, allowing Obolon to score a late winning goal."
"On Tuesday, we should our minds on the job throughout the whole match, otherwise it can cost us too much."
Shakhtar will be without their key defender Razvan Rat, who was booked in the match at the Nou Camp.
Another first-choice full back, Dario Srna, is also uncertain for the Tuesday’s match as he experienced leg muscle problems in the match with Obolon and was substituted after just 10 minutes.