As Shakhtar Donetsk prepare to face Real Madrid in Spain, coach Mircea Lucescu has conceded his team would have been better off starting their Champions League campaign at home.
Madrid will host Shakhtar on Tuesday, with Lucescu set to lead the Ukrainian club in the Champions League group stage for the 10th time, and the 70-year-old Romanian knows how important a positive opening result can be.
That seems unlikely at the Santiago Bernabeu but Lucescu still wants Shakhtar to prove their regional dominance by doing better than the likes of CSKA Moscow, BATE and Dinamo Zagreb.
“Real Madrid are a super club with top-level organisation. It’s not ideal to begin against a team like them, and Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have an advantage starting at home,” Lucescu said at a news conference on Monday.
“Rafael Benitez is a great strategist and has a tactical system to build a good game.
“We want to show a very high level and prove to people that we are the best team in Eastern Europe. Our team is strong and I trust my players. We want to be respected.”
But while Lucescu seemed concerned at the prospect of facing Madrid away from home, Shakhtar attacking midfielder Taison reminded his team-mates they must not lose the game mentally before the first whistle is blown.
“It will be a good game. I would say that today’s football is different from [what] it was before,” the Brazilian told Shakhtar’s website.
“No one can win the match in advance. Both teams have equal chances.”
Taison added that Shakhtar should embrace the challenge of facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. at one of Europe’s premier stadiums.
“I’m doing the best thing in the world – I play football. I think anyone wants to face such teams as Real Madrid,” he said.
“The only thing we need is to achieve a positive result in Spain. We will fight for it.”