Shakhtar Donetsk could set themselves up for a spot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals when they take on Borussia Dortmund.
With the flu running rife in Dortmund’s squad, Shakhtar should be confident ahead of their home leg of the round of 16 on Wednesday, despite not having played a competitive fixture since early December.
Shakhtar’s last match for points was in the Champions League group stage on December 6 when they lost 1-0 to Juventus at Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
But having won six of their seven friendlies over the winter break, the Ukrainian club should have plenty of confidence ahead of the visit of Dortmund.
The reigning Bundesliga champions were thumped 4-1 on their home turf by Hamburg on Saturday and had Polish striker Robert Lewandowski sent off.
It was Dortmund’s biggest home defeat in the Bundesliga since a 5-1 demolition job by Bayern Munich in 2009 and with Mario Goetze, Marcel Schmelzer, Kevin Grosskreutz and Lukasz Piszczek amongst the group struggling with flu, head coach Jurgen Klopp will be keen to limit the damage in Ukraine.
Shakhtar’s home record in the Champions League is formidable – they have won seven of their past 13 games at Donbass Arena and lost just three.
But with Saturday’s defeat seemingly ending Dortmund’s slim title hopes in the Bundesliga (they trail leaders Bayern by 15 points), Klopp can now make the Champions League the focus for his team.
Klopp’s first task will be to tighten up his defence after Dortmund gave Hamburg too much space at Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund have conceded six goals in their past two games, although before those matches Klopp’s team had kept consecutive clean sheets and scored eight goals up the other end.
Shakhtar head coach Mircea Lucescu’s main concern, apart from a lack of match practice, will be working out how to cover the absence of Brazilian playmaker Willian, who joined Russian Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala in the January transfer window.
Another Brazilian, Taison, could be the man to take over from Willian on the left wing, having been bought from Metalist Kharkiv in January, while Armenian forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be Shakhtar’s main threat up front having scored 20 goals in 24 games across all competitions this season.