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Wednesday, September 29, 2004 

Barcelona - Shakhtar (CL Preview)

FC Barcelona face FC Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday 2 with the task of building on their impressive 3-1 win against Celtic FC a fortnight ago.

Early points
The victory in Glasgow was vital, with Barcelona's remaining Group F fixtures including a double-header against AC Milan after tonight's visit of Shakhtar. For that reason Barcelona want to stockpile points as quickly as possible in order to assure their progress to the knockout rounds. This will also allow them to concentrate on domestic form, after a strong start in the Primera División.

Home advantage
Coach Frank Rijkaard and his inspirational forward Ronaldinho are among a group of ten staff and players likely to make home UEFA Champions League debuts for Barcelona against the Ukrainian side. The match comes 17 months after the club were eliminated from the competition on their last Champions League night at the Camp Nou, losing 2-1 to Juventus FC in the 2002/03 quarter-finals for a 3-2 aggregate defeat.

Excited Ronaldinho
"I'm going to love seeing the Camp Nou full, noisy and hopefully enjoying itself very much," said Ronaldinho, who took one assist and one missed penalty away from Celtic Park. "I can't wait to make my home debut in this competition and my only desire is to win the game and entertain the fans." The day before the match, the Brazilian dressed in Barcelona's shirt from their 1992 European Champion Clubs' Cup victory, but was too superstitious to pose with the replica Champions League trophy. He promised: "When we win it I'll have a thousand photos taken of me with the real trophy!"

Injury problems
The only blot on Barcelona's landscape is their injury list, with Thiago Motta and Gabri García out for several months with knee injuries, and Sylvinho, Gerard López, Albert Jorquera and Rafael Márquez carrying short to mid-term problems. Nevertheless, Rijkaard's team should continue with the powerful brand of football that has made them one of Europe's most thrilling sides. "We make games simple for ourselves if we put in lots of hard work and pressurise the opposition like we must do against the Ukrainians," said wing-back Juliano Belletti. "To win games you have to run and suffer."

'No fear'
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu believes Barcelona are the competition's form team. But the experienced Romanian still predicts that his side can create a shock by winning. "Barcelona have rebuilt well and are back in the Champions League much stronger than they were last time," said Lucescu. "They are playing marvellous football and have to be Europe's form side. But we are here with respect, not fear, and I'm sure my team will be ready because everyone, including Barcelona, has weak points."

Missing duo
Nigeria striker Julius Aghahowa and Croatia midfield player Darijo Srna are missing because of a knee injury and suspension respectively. However, Shakhtar have cause for confidence, having won all of their eight matches in Ukraine's Premier League and been unlucky 1-0 losers to Milan on Matchday 1. After Srna's dismissal early in the second half, Lucescu's men showed dogged resistance until Clarence Seedorf's late goal.

Not invincible
Shakhtar captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk will have the job of shutting off the Barcelona midfield but believes his work is achievable. "I'm a Barcelona fan and I have been since I modelled myself on 'Pep' Guardiola from Johan Cruyff's 'Dream Team'," he said, providing another reminder of that triumph in 1992. "Winning at the Camp Nou will be difficult but Barcelona are not invincible," Tymoschuk added

Source: Uefa.com

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