Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Shakhtar Donetsk v Malmo: Visitors seek to ensure Europa League spot

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 1 Nov 2015

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Malmo picked up their first points of the Champions League campaign last time out against Shakhtar Donetsk and a repeat of that win this week will end the Ukrainian side’s hopes of progression.

These two teams were always likely to fight it out for third place, behind Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, with Markus Rosenberg’s 17th-minute effort earning Malmo their first win of Group A in Sweden last time out.

That result kept Shakhtar winless in the competition and Mircea Lucescu’s men face a near-impossible task to keep hopes of progression alive. Another defeat at home on Tuesday will end their hopes of finishing third.

There remains the possibility of earning a Europa League spot for Lucescu’s side, who have scored 11 goals in two games since their defeat to Malmo, although the Shakhtar boss acknowledged concerns over the form of experienced skipper Darijo Srna.

“I am concerned about this point. Darijo must realise that now it’s impossible to play the way he used to in previous years,” Lucescu explained following Saturday’s 7-1 win at Zorya.

“Sometimes players lose pace and mobility with age. All this can be offset by the experience, as well as a good selection of positions on the pitch. Currently, Darijo changes his game, it is just that process is underway.

“I think it will help him spend many more years at Shakhtar. As for his attacking performance, it has always been good. He should seriously work on challenges for the ball and, of course, step up this component.

“We knew that [Zorya’s Ivan] Petryak is a very fast, explosive and technical footballer. I drew their attention to the fact that such a player mustn’t be allowed to get the ball, because he can easily beat you in a one-on-one situation.

“Hopefully, Darijo will play quite differently against [Jo Inge] Berget of Malmo and all will be well.”

While Lucescu has fitness concerns over Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Taison, Malmo could be without Zlatan Azinovic (knee), Guillermo Molins (knee) and Nikola Djurdjic (groin).

Malmo finished bottom of the pile in their other Champions League group stage campaign last season and signed off their domestic league campaign with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Norrkoping on Saturday.

It leaves the 18-time domestic champions fifth and needing to claim the Swedish Cup if they are to ensure a Europa League qualifying spot for next season, with Berget eager to salvage some pride in midweek.

“It is a big failure for us. We have no others to blame but ourselves,” he is quoted by Expressen.

“It takes time to play together a team but we have shown in Europe what we can so there’s no-one else to blame. Now we have to win the Swedish Cup, there is nothing else to it.”

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