Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu has claimed that whichever side progresses in his side’s Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund will make it through to the final. While such an achievement would represent a huge breakthrough for either side in Europe, the way both teams performed in the group stages earlier this season makes Lucescu’s claim far from fanciful.
Both Lucescu and his opposite number Jurgen Klopp will doubtless have been less than thrilled at their sides being drawn against each other at this stage, but it is the German coach who will have been the happiest having secured a 2-2 draw in Donetsk.
Despite conceding that, after his side’s long winter break, Dortmund had the physical edge three weeks ago, Lucescu feels that it was only errors that prevented his side from leading the tie.
“Despite being well-oiled in the Bundesliga, they profited only from our mistakes in the first leg,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “For [Robert] Lewandowski's goal, two of our players got in each other's way and it was similar for their second goal.
“Dortmund might be in better shape, physically. They are playing at a very high level, be it with vertical or horizontal passes, low or high balls. My team will aim to make fewer mistakes and avoid handing them any presents.”
Since the first leg, Borussia Dortmund have fallen further behind—now 17 points—Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and also suffered a convincing defeat to their rivals in the German Cup. The focus is now almost solely on the Champions League, but Klopp was quick to dismiss the notion that it would be a failed season if Dortmund exit on Tuesday.
“I have read it would be a lost season if we don't go through,” he said. “I think that's very harsh. We have a big opportunity to finish second in the Bundesliga: we wouldn't have dreamt of that three years ago.
“It is a very, very important match for us because this side have the opportunity of reaching something new, the quarter-finals of the Champions League.”
Klopp has said that there is still a slight chance that defender Mats Hummels will be fit to start having missed Dortmund’s past two matches with flu.
Shakhtar will definitely be without one of their central defenders, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who has not traveled as he continues to struggle with an ankle injury.
Borussia Dortmund (probable)
D: Piszczek, Santana, Subotic, Schmelzer
M: Gundogan, Bender
Blaszczykowski, Gotze, Reus
Shakhtar Donetsk (probable)
D: Srna, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Rat
M: Hubschman, Fernandinho
Teixeira Mkhitaryan, Costa
Prediction: Lucescu was right to suggest that both Dortmund’s goals came from his side’s errors in Ukraine and the Romanian coach should be encouraged by the overall display. Since the first leg, Shakhtar have also got a first league game since the winter break under their belts and should be physically sharper.
Confounding the stereotype of Eastern European teams away from home in Europe, Shakhtar’s performances have been excellent on their travels in the Champions League this season.
Dortmund, meanwhile, have certainly saved their best performances for the Champions League. From their point of view, it is to be hoped that a strong focus on Europe was in part behind what was a poor display against an admittedly exceptional Bayern Munich side last week. The loss of Hummels would be significant, not only for his defensive acumen, but his ability to bring and pass the ball out of the back.
There is very little between these sides, and it is a shame that one has to exit this early, but, roared on by the impassioned massed inside the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund should raise their level and just have the edge.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Where to watch: The second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.