Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk face off in an intriguing champions League clash, with three points on Wednesday night set to take the winner one step closer to the last-16.
Shakhtar are an experienced side now in Champions League terms and are always there or thereabouts when it comes to qualifying for the knockout stages. They currently find themselves on four points from two matches, after a win and a draw against Real Sociedad and Manchester United respectively.
Bayer Leverkusen players celebrate a goal against Real Sociedad, October 2
"We are here to take all three points," Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu said. "We know it will be quite difficult, although Shakhtar tend to play very well against German sides. Often these back-to-back matches against one team are key to deciding whether you advance from the group phase or not.
"These are two very different sides. Leverkusen are a very physical team with tough players; Shakhtar try to control the match with technical skill. We have to be wary of their counterattacks and threat from freekicks and corners because these will be dangerous. When Leverkusen attack, they attack with many players so we might be able to benefit from this."
Leverkusen have picked up a loss and a win in their two games in the Champions League, and the two back-to-back matches against Shakhtar is likely to spell out who goes in and out come the end of the group stages.
Sami Hyypia wants his side to play with more authority than they did against United, but the manager knows the task of beating Shakhtar is a difficult one.
"Donetsk have a very good team," the former Liverpool defender said. "You cannot focus on one or two players just because they have a lot of individual quality up front.
"Their players are always in motion, which is why this was quite a difficult match to prepare for. We have to communicate well and defend better than we have in our most recent games.
"We have been nervous on the ball at times, especially in Manchester. Little things will be essential. We have to move more, pass the ball better and concentrate, then we can show what we can do. We have to be at our absolute best in every match and we demand this from the team every time."
Team News: Leverkusen will be without the influential Lars Bender and Levin Oztunali, while Shakhtar have worries over Serhiy Kryvstov.
Key men: Bayer Leverkusen: Stefan Kiessling is the kind of striker that can pop up at anytime and find the back of the net, and Leverkusen might be in desperate need of that particular quality o Wednesday.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Taison has the potential to create or score a goal from anywhere and the Brazilian will be one to keep an eye on.
Where to watch
The game is scheduled for a 12.15 a.m. IST start on Thursday morning with no live telecast.
Expected lineups: Bayer Leverkusen: Leno; Hilbert, Spahic, Toprak, Boenisch; Castro, Reinartz, Rolfes; Sam, Kiessling, Hegeler.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Pyatov; Srna, Kryvtsov, Rakitskiy, Ismaily; Fernando, Stepanenko, Douglas Costa, Alex Teixeira, Taison; Luiz Adriano.
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