Shakhtar Donetsk winger Bernard approaches Wednesday’s trip to Malmo still hopeful they can progress to the Champions League last 16 despite a winless start to the group stages.
The Ukrainian side visit the Swedbank Stadion on Wednesday in a match between two teams still looking for their first points of the campaign following defeats to Group A favourites Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
But, after producing what coach Mircea Lucescu described as a “flawless” performance against Dynamo Kiev, Shakhtar can at least go into the match with Malmo full of confidence.
Shakhtar moved to the top of the Ukrainian Premier League by going level on points with Dynamo thanks to a comfortable 3-0 away win on Friday.
Alex Teixeira netted a double after Marlos had given Shakhtar the lead, with attacking midfielder Bernard singled out for particular praise by Lucescu.
told him personally that this was his best game,” Lucescu said. “Bernard stopped playing only into himself – he has very good individual qualities, and he is focused on team activities.”
Shakhtar have progressed from the group stage of the Champions League in three of the last five seasons – reaching the quarter-finals in 2010-11 before losing to eventual champions Barcelona.
With their poor start and the standard of the opposition in Group A, Shakhtar’s hopes of doing the same this time around look slim.
But Brazil international Bernard said: “Our next match is the Champions League tie – we understand its importance and the need to maintain concentration. We are very motivated – Shakhtar want to advance from the group.”
Victory in this match and November’s reverse fixture would at least put Shakhtar in a strong position to drop into the Europa League, a competition Malmo will be keen to enter with their hopes of European football next season diminishing.
Malmo are fourth in the Swedish Allsvenskan and seven points adrift of Gothenberg – who hold the last Europa League qualification spot in third – with two games to play.
However, Age Hareide’s men have traditionally been tough to overcome at home, with the 2-0 loss to Real Madrid serving as their first at the Swedbank in 13 matches.
Defender Yoshimar Yotun is suspended as Malmo aim to produce another strong home performance, while midfielder Guillermo Molins is out because of a knee injury.
Midfielder Taras Stepanenko is back from a ban for Shakhtar, whose dreams of another strong European campaign rest on their showings against the group underdogs.