Real Madrid will finish top of Group A in the Champions League if they bounce back from a painful loss to Barcelona with victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
Rafael Benitez’s men were humbled 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first Clasico of the season on Saturday and subsequently lost ground on their rivals in the Liga title race.
However, Madrid have already ensured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League prior to the midweek trip to Ukraine and know a fourth victory of the campaign will guarantee top spot.
A draw in Lviv could prove sufficient for Benitez and Madrid, if Paris Saint-Germain fail to beat Malmo, although the coach knows only a convincing victory will help divert attention from their poor Clasico display.
“Rather than analysing the game, which of course we will do, what matters most now is lifting the group’s spirits quickly and getting everyone to see the importance of the upcoming fixtures,” Benitez said after the loss at the Bernabeu.
“We also have a duty to the fans to get three points in our next match.”
Benitez will be without defenders Marcelo (adductor) and Sergio Ramos (shoulder) as Madrid prepare to face a Shkahtar side whose hope of progression are all but over despite a 4-0 win over Malmo last time out.
Mircea Lucescu’s men realistically need to beat Madrid and hope PSG fail to collect maximum points in Sweden to have a chance of progression.
Shakhtar will also stay in contention with a draw, provided the French champions are beaten, and defender Vasyl Kobin feels some factors are in Shakhtar’s favour.
Asked whether Madrid’s qualification could help Shakhtar, Kobin told the club’s official website: “Just a bit … the cold weather might affect it [the outcome] too.
“But one way or another, the players of Real Madrid are masters of their craft. They know how to handle the ball.
“Everything will depend on the development of the game. Los Merengues have begun to play more defensively. Previously, they focused solely on attacking, while under the current mentor [Benitez] they drop deep and play on the counter more frequently.
“Playing away, we lost to Real Madrid. But this time our fans will come to the stadium. We have to play our game and then act based on the score. Personally, I do not feel any pressure.”
Lucescu will be without suspended pair Oleksandr Kucher and Darijo Srna for the visit of Madrid.
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