Shakhtar Donetsk travel to Belgium on Thursday keen to maintain their unbeaten run in the Europa League and book a quarter-final place at the expense of Anderlecht.
Mircea Lucescu’s side earned a 3-1 lead in the first leg last week thanks to Taison, Olexandr Kucher and Eduardo and are strong favourites to reach the Europa League last eight for the second time, although Frank Acheampong’s away goal gives Anderlecht hope of turning the tie around in front of their home fans.
The last time the Ukrainian side progressed to the quarter-finals, they went on to lift the trophy in 2009, beating Werder Bremen 2-1 after extra time in the final in Istanbul.
Lucescu opted to rest some of his star names against Dnipro in the league last weekend to ensure they are fully fit for Europe, but that backfired as Shakhtar were thumped 4-1, hampering their title bid.
Defeat left Shakhtar three points adrift of league leaders Dynamo Kiev and midfielder Wellington Nem knows they cannot afford a similar performance in Brussels.
“Let’s be honest, we had a bad game,” he said. “Now we need to analyse this defeat and our own mistakes to avoid that in a meeting with Anderlecht.”
Taison – one of those rested against Dnipro – is expected to return for Shakhtar, whose defeat on Sunday ended a five-match unbeaten sequence since the resumption of their campaign following the mid-season break.
Turning a two-goal deficit around looks to be a daunting prospect for Anderlecht given their opponents’ performances since dropping into the competition from the Champions League, however the Belgian side are unbeaten in six European home games.
Sadly for Besnik Hasi’s side, only once in that run have they recorded a victory by a margin that would see them book a last-eight spot instead of Shakhtar – a 2-0 win over Galatasaray in the Champions League group stage last season.
However there is a glimmer of hope for Hasi, given Anderlecht have won all three home ties with Ukrainian opponents, and by a two-goal margin.
Although Shakhtar fans enjoy relatively fresh memories of glory in this competition, Anderlecht’s sole success came back in 1983 – when it was known as the UEFA Cup – with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Benfica.
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