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Lucescu transcends Subbuteo at Shakhtar

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Phil Minshull | 22:13 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Shakhtar Donetsk are on the verge of making their own little bit of history and, into the bargain, making life probably a little more uncomfortable for Premier League leaders Arsenal.

A point at home to Portuguese side Braga on Wednesday will ensure that the Ukrainian team finish top of their group and qualify for the Champions League last 16 for the first time.

The Gunners, assuming Arsene Wenger's men fulfil expectations and get three points at home to a struggling Partizan Belgrade outfit that have not won in the Champions League so far and only scored one goal, will then have to settle for second place.

Arsenal then face the possibility of facing a team such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or even reigning champions Inter Milan in the knockout stages.

Just in case you are an optimistic Arsenal fan, I have provided a link so that you can look at the permutations for what is required should Braga upset the odds and get their fourth consecutive win.

However, Donetsk in December, despite the relative comforts of Shakhtar's recently opened Donbass Arena, can still be very inhospitable to visitors.

The hosts have also yet to lose a game there this season, either in domestic or continental competition, so I will be putting my money on Shakhtar not to trip up over their own feet.

The reigning Ukrainian champions started their season with a 7-1 thrashing of Tavriya in the local Super Cup and have not looked back. They have dropped only four points in their 19 games before the winter break started at the end of November.

Shakhtar's only domestic loss was a rather surprising 1-0 defeat at Obolon Kyiv in September but they are still a whopping 12 points clear of perennial rivals Dynamo Kiev.

With a strange coincidence, Shakhtar finished off this stage of the season with a 4-0 win over a Ukrainian mid-table side called Arsenal, who are not related to their London namesakes.

Eduardo will be looking to join his former team Arsenal in the knockour stages of the Champions League: Pic AP

Nevertheless, at the start of the group stages, Wenger must have fancied his team to lead the way in Group H, despite the Ukrainian side's decent credentials, which includes a Uefa Cup success two seasons ago.

After all, they crashed out of last season's Champions League before even reaching the group stages, suffering a costly - in both financial and egotistical terms - defeat to the modest Romanian side Timisoara.

"We failed to progress to the Champions League group stage last season but showed our strong character by winning the Ukrainian Premier League, six points clear of Dynamo Kiev, so we are heading the right way," said the club's veteran Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu back in July.

A potentially demoralising 5-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium in October also made Arsenal the favourites to top the group. However, Shakhtar again showed their character, a regularly used word in Lucescu's vocabulary, by bouncing back to beat the Gunners 2-1 at home two weeks later and have not faltered since.

Part of the reason for Shakhtar's success this season clearly stems from the fact that the Miners, as they are known locally, have been able to hang onto their top players, such as the Uefa Cup final scorers Jadson and Luiz Adriano, who in my opinion are hugely underrated.

Lucescu has also augmented his squad wisely with the likes of the speedy, right winger Douglas Costa and the Ukrainian international defender Dymtro Chygrynskiy, the latter after an unhappy season at Barcelona.

Another reason for Shakhtar's success may be Lucescu's loyalty. He has been with the club since 2004, despite various offers from elsewhere, including the chance to coach the Ukrainian team in the build-up to the Euro 2012 finals, which are being held jointly by Ukraine and Poland.

The club and its players now exude stability as well as confidence.

Despite their relatively unsuccessful Champions League campaigns, winning four league titles in the last six years as well as becoming only the second Ukrainian club to win a European trophy has meant Lucescu has retained the favour of the club owner, the oligarch and billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who is estimated to be Ukraine's richest man.

If you think I am exaggerating Lucescu's qualities, well, I will admit it, I do have a soft spot for him.

He was in the Romanian team that played England at the 1970 World Cup, the very first World Cup game that I can remember watching. I got up early to watch the highlights of England's 1-0 win before going to school. David Coleman was coming through on a grainy signal from Mexico. It all seemed so exciting and exotic.

I also had Lucescu among my rather incomplete Panini sticker collection and, for reasons which have completely evaded me but which may also have had something to do with Lucescu, I got a Subbuteo team in Romanian colours shortly after the World Cup came to an end.

I was not someone indulging in some pre-pubescent propaganda for the Ceausescu regime but, for a European player and from what little I saw via the satellite, Lucescu seemed to have a slight touch of Brazilian magic about him.

Coach Mircea Lucescu is forming a team which has a Brazilian core to it. Pic: Getty

He is usually listed as a striker but was more of a gifted and intelligent attacking midfielder by contemporary analysis - a little like Kaka at AC Milan perhaps.

During the second half of his career, in which he won seven Romanian titles at Dynamo Bucharest, he was the foil and provider at both club and country level for Dudu Georgescu, who won the European Golden Shoe in 1975 and 1977.

Lucescu's abilities as a player have since been transferred into his ethos as a coach. His squad now contains six Brazilians - all midfielders or forwards - as well as the Brazil-born but naturalised Croatian ex-Arsenal striker Eduardo.

It might be stretching the analogy a little too far but on their best days there is even a little touch of the classical Brazilian style about Shakhtar as well.

Assuming that Shakhtar do get the required point against Braga, then how far can they go in this season's Champions League?

Ukraine teams, like their counterparts in Russia, have the disadvantage of having their momentum broken by the three-month domestic league winter break and Shakhtar's next match in the Ukraine Premier League is on 5 March.

Such a hiatus between serious games can help if there are injuries or other problems that need addressing but for a team on a roll, as Shaktar are, it can be disruptive. They could easily end up facing a very tricky opponent in the last 16 like Milan and be short of match practice.

However, should Shakhtar get over that hurdle and get back into their stride by the Champions League quarter-finals in March, then who knows what could happen.

Comments on this blog in the space below.


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  • 1. At 00:30am on 08 Dec 2010, TG2828 wrote:

    The link to this article says: "can Russians reach Champions League knockout stage?". Shakhtar Donetsk are a Ukranian team! There is a difference.

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  • 2. At 01:39am on 08 Dec 2010, maxim90 wrote:

    Could't agree more! Post an article with the correct information atleast please. This is a Ukrainian team not Russian.

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  • 3. At 02:17am on 08 Dec 2010, Vinny Cluitt wrote:

    pretty poor by the bbc to make that blunder! but none-the-less a brilliant article about a team on the up! Good luck to them.

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  • 4. At 04:22am on 08 Dec 2010, AntonioSaucedo wrote:

    Good article, Phil. I think SD is the real deal. I hope they go far because I want to see the Bolivian striker Marcelo Martins Moreno score a few.

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  • 5. At 06:18am on 08 Dec 2010, Cannons of Rhetoric wrote:

    Cool write-up on Shaktar and Lucescu Phil! I didn't know much about the team or their manager so it was a refreshing read for me...I'm glad to see Eduardo doing well again. It would have been a shame if his career ended because of lack of confidence in the EPL...
    Is it just me or do Shaktar and Braga both have a large number of Brazilians in their teams? Just like watching two Brazils ;)

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  • 6. At 06:28am on 08 Dec 2010, Leye wrote:

    good article, i believe Shaktar and Arsenal will make it out of the group however Arsenal could possibly face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 and i believe if the gunners avoid the spanish teams we have more than a chance against either German team. Shaktar should be fine in the round of 16 too as I can see them beating Inter Milan (benitez's incarnation of the team is p1ss poor), FC Copenhagen, Marseille and Roma...the only teams they might struggle against if they're drawn together are AC Milan, Valencia and possibly Lyon but even against these opponents Shaktar will give a very good account of themselves.

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  • 7. At 07:25am on 08 Dec 2010, SCL wrote:

    Just to second some of the earlier comments... "Russian" team?

    Some interesting last 16 matches await either way with a couple of teams winning groups which you might normally expect!

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  • 8. At 07:35am on 08 Dec 2010, Alinem wrote:

    Hello Phil.
    I really love the articles here on BBC. It was a nice try to make such an article about the club, a decent club in East Europe. They have been always a decent Football Club since I've known about them.
    And their managaer, Lucescu, deserves a full respect.
    I hope they can reach at least quarter-finals as they have some intellegent players in their side.

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  • 9. At 09:20am on 08 Dec 2010, Chip it like Vela wrote:

    Its important to ensure that we qualify and finishing 1st or 2nd is now secondary... To be honest, I don't fancy us winning the CL anyway so not really concerned about who we meet in the next rd...Having said that, Schalke and Bayern will be really easy so thats a 50% chance of making it past the next rd even if we finish 2nd in the group...Finish 1st and we could still play the likes of Milan, Valencia or Lyon...anyway, here's hoping for a sparkling performance tonight at the Emirates and goals for Walcott, Rosicky and RVP...

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  • 10. At 09:27am on 08 Dec 2010, tomefccam wrote:

    Cheers BBC. Added to Harry Redknapps Qatar - "Something you clear from your throat" comment, us Brits cannot bother to distinguish between different countires. We now all think Shakhtar are Russian, well it's in that part of the world somewhere...who cares eh?

    I cringe to think of any Ukranian natives logging on today.

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  • 11. At 09:28am on 08 Dec 2010, JoC wrote:

    Fair play to Shakhtar Donetsk, but I doubt they would be in such a good position if Arsene Wenger took the away game more seriously and played his first team. How a team goes from 5-1 to losing 2-1 in a couple of weeks - same with Braga - is criminal.

    Spurs apart most group winners will still hope to draw the Ukranians.

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  • 12. At 09:56am on 08 Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    I hope that the 'Russian' team Shakhtar Donetsk play a big Scottish or Welsh team like Man Utd, Chelsea or Spurs next round. It's a shame that England's representatives Rangers are heading for the Europa League........

    Come on BBC sort it out. If you can't even get the country right, It makes a mockery of the supposed expert analysis.

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  • 13. At 09:57am on 08 Dec 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    TomGore1: "The link to this article says: "can Russians reach Champions League knockout stage?". Tom and all the others who have commented on this, I've looked around most of the usual 'entry points' to this blog and can't find the link you are refering to. I'd be happy if you can post it, if the lads in London who look after the technical side of things haven't corrected it by now. This sort of error will always be corrected.

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  • 14. At 10:00am on 08 Dec 2010, Tom wrote:

    "Arsenal then face the possibility of facing a team such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or even reigning champions Inter Milan in the knockout stages."

    They can't face Inter in the last 16 if they come second, Tottenham saw to that....

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  • 15. At 10:14am on 08 Dec 2010, likowala wrote:

    braga spirit will be more higher enough to have a 4th succesiful win against shakhter 2-1,
    While Arsenal will be throwing the disaster to the weakness Partizan by 7-0

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  • 16. At 10:15am on 08 Dec 2010, On The Way Up wrote:

    Phil, in the main link to this article from the BBC Sport>Football homepage it states- "Shakhtar on verge of history" as the title but underneath reads "Can Russians reach Champions League knockout stage?".

    Major error, not necessarily by yourself though!

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  • 17. At 10:34am on 08 Dec 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    Shaktar making the last 16 is hardly a big historic occurance. They are a big club, second only in size and history to Dinamo Kiev (who also make the KO stages before) in the Ukraine. Claiming that they didn't even make the groups last time is a stupid way to try and paint them as minnows, they FAILED massively last year. They are rightly considered to be expected last 16 qualifyers based on ranking and perception, it is hardly a shock.

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  • 18. At 10:41am on 08 Dec 2010, IvanGolacIsMagic - Save 606 wrote:

    To be fair, its the sub editor who is at fault here, not Phil. Sadly it does take away from what is a very good blog.

    I was born in the early 80s and I too have a fondness for Romanian football. Steau Bucharest were always a team I had a soft spot for as they always seemed competitive. And then of course there was the national team with the great Hagi in it, although others like Popescu always impressed.

    Football for countries like Romania always seem cyclical so here's hoping that country can produce another set of players for the next generation to once more capture the imagination of neutrals like us.

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  • 19. At 11:03am on 08 Dec 2010, Alinem wrote:

    Phil, I must admit that Shakhtar are more stable than CSKA Moscow or Spartak Moscow in another words nowodays Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) are better than Russian Football clubs. And I'm here agree with you, and also you've mentioned about the owner of club Akhmet Renatov. Applauds Man.

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  • 20. At 11:15am on 08 Dec 2010, Alistair M - BBC Sport wrote:

    I can only apologise to Phil and to those of you who have taken offence at an error which was entirely mine.

    Saying "Can Russians reach Champions League knockout stages?" rather than Ukrainians was down to a tired mistake after a long shift with a cold, rather than any slipping standards, I can assure you.

    Be good to see the er, Ukrainians in the knockout stages, they've played some good football from what I have seen this season.

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  • 21. At 11:25am on 08 Dec 2010, sartori71 wrote:

    It was a good blog, but apart from the sub-editing "Russia" howler, the gloss was rather taken off it by the innaccurate comment about Arsenal, in the event of finishing second, having to play Inter....

    Last 16 pairings and winners/runners up are pretty firmly etched in the minds of most, if not all committed footy fans.

    one Man Utd fan relieved to be avoiding Barca...for now.

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  • 22. At 11:47am on 08 Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    20. At 11:15am on 08 Dec 2010, Alistair M - BBC Sport wrote:
    I can only apologise to Phil and to those of you who have taken offence at an error which was entirely mine.

    Saying "Can Russians reach Champions League knockout stages?" rather than Ukrainians was down to a tired mistake after a long shift with a cold, rather than any slipping standards, I can assure you.

    Be good to see the er, Ukrainians in the knockout stages, they've played some good football from what I have seen this season.


    Fair Play and respect for your honesty. I for one would like to see some Eastern European teams challenging in the latter stages.

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  • 23. At 11:54am on 08 Dec 2010, tomefccam wrote:

    Shakhtar are a team that have really impressed me over the last couple of years. I think they will progress well, but do not have that finishing edge to really challenge.

    I believe they are a squad of nearly men, and i'll explain.

    Every now and then you get a side full of talent, and they do well. They have come together but the talent will not pull them all the way through. But the players that make up this squad will go on to form parts of different title winning squads in other countires.

    Bordaeux were an example in 1996. Zidane, Lizarazu and Dugarry. Red Star in 1991. Leverkusen in 2002. Lucio, Ballack, Ze Roberto, Berbatov et al. Zenit with Progrebniak, Arshavin etc in 2008. Eventually these teams lose their players to Top Top class clubs, and they fade somewhat into obscurity after their finest hour. I fear that this is approaching for Shakhtar.

    For me, the star man is Srna, a player who has somehow been missed off the radar when evaluating Europes finest midield players

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  • 24. At 11:57am on 08 Dec 2010, gdfeet4abigman wrote:

    I would think that Shaktar will win tomorrow. I think the point about the mid season break is a good one though. Against Fulham in the UEFA cup last year they looked seriously out of touch for the tie because they were in the middle of that break. No doubt Fulham played well but it was obvious that Shaktar's players were not at their usual levels. That said, playing in Ukraine maintains it's difficulty for a lot of other teams due to the relative harshness of the climate. Will be interesting to see how they do. Maybe this seasons dark horses....

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  • 25. At 12:07pm on 08 Dec 2010, tonyyeboah wrote:

    As a fulham fan having gone to both ties last year, shakhtar have been the best footballing side i have ever seen play - despite their inability to fully finish - their passing and movement is incredible. Great place to watch football and everyone was hospitable ... though, i wouldnt fancy playing in ukraine in december. I hope they win the group!! vpered shakhtar

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  • 26. At 12:50pm on 08 Dec 2010, Frank T J Mackey wrote:

    Excellent blog , good point about Jadson who i agree is under rated

    P.S who really cares if a slight error was made in the blog ? just enjoy them for sparking the debate they do

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  • 27. At 12:57pm on 08 Dec 2010, David Rolls wrote:


    "Schalke and Bayern will be really easy"

    Really - Having watched all football in europe over the last decade it is obvious to me that the Bundesliga is miles better than the premiership. Arsenal finished 3rd last season, whereas Bayern won the Bundesliga and Schalke finished 2nd and although they are poorly positioned in this campaigne they have stil played some excellent football in the ECL.

    If I were an Arsenal fan I would be worried about any team with a decent striker given your ability to leak goals in EVERY game played.

    I would have either Bayern or Schalke to knock another English team off there pearch. English team are NOT the best in Europe - wake up !!!

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  • 28. At 1:12pm on 08 Dec 2010, Alinem wrote:

    David Rolls you must have been kidding over there?
    "English team are NOT the best in Europe - wake up !!!" Is this joke or what?
    Check out the statistics please and say something real. There's no sense in what you did say above.

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  • 29. At 1:30pm on 08 Dec 2010, Mikey wrote:

    I have always thought Shakhtar to be similar to a few Russian teams in their play.. they can play some decent football and catch out teams due to having quite a few technically gifted players who can produce magic.. but at times all these playmakers can go missing in games and they can look very ordinary..

    I wouldnt underestimate Braga either.. I was very impressed with them against Celtic and think they started very slowly in the group stages..

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  • 30. At 1:30pm on 08 Dec 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Sartori71 "It was a good blog but... the gloss was rather taken off it by the innaccurate comment about Arsenal, in the event of finishing second, having to play Inter...." The blog was written yesterday afternoon when that was still a possibilty although it was only posted at 2213 GMT last night. Now, of course, they cant't face Inter (or Tottenham, but wouldn't a London derby in the quarter-finals be fun). Assuming Arsenal finish second, they will face either Schalke 04, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid. Gunners fans, pick your opponent!

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  • 31. At 1:46pm on 08 Dec 2010, Ahsan wrote:

    Come on man, people here are vultures!! A small mistake and half the comments on that!!

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  • 32. At 2:23pm on 08 Dec 2010, will wrote:

    @27, David Rolls
    "Having watched all football in europe over the last decade it is obvious to me that the Bundesliga is miles better than the premiership."

    Erm... really? Apologies if I'm missing sarcasm there, but seriously?

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  • 33. At 2:33pm on 08 Dec 2010, will wrote:

    "Assuming Arsenal finish second, they will face either Schalke 04, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid. Gunners fans, pick your opponent!"
    Hmm, interesting! Barcelona and Bayern Munich have knocked us out in recent seasons, so they'd be feisty. We knocked Real Madrid out a few years ago, but they're obviously a different animal under Mourinho. So I think Schalke is probably the obvious one to want.

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  • 34. At 2:35pm on 08 Dec 2010, Paul bain wrote:

    great blog phil. im really interested in shakhtar. they have some good attacking players. I know that they are the favourites and expected to win the league, but i was wondering what the fans expectations are of their team in europe?

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  • 35. At 2:58pm on 08 Dec 2010, JamTay1 wrote:

    32. At 2:23pm on 08 Dec 2010, edanfalls wrote:
    @27, David Rolls
    "Having watched all football in europe over the last decade it is obvious to me that the Bundesliga is miles better than the premiership."

    Erm... really? Apologies if I'm missing sarcasm there, but seriously?


    Actually if you take off your Premier League blinkers the man has a point. Success wise in the last 10 years two English clubs have won the Champions League compared to one German club. In fairness the latter stages have seen a lot of English involvement but that is due to the big 4, the talent pool in the Bundesliga seems to be spread a lot more evenly.

    So success wise you say the Premier League is ahead. But match day attendances and atmosphere the Bundesliga wins hands down. If your interested in competiveness in the title race the Bundesliga wins hands down. Clubs in the Bundesliga also are German owned and mostly operate within in their means, compared again to the Premier League....

    German teams have not sold their souls to the Corporate devil, football is considerably cheaper to watch in Germany than England. Teams in Germany still have their traditions and identity.

    So the question is for 1 extra Champions League win is it worth prostituting your clubs history, ripping off the loyal fans, and having a two horse title race?

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  • 36. At 3:00pm on 08 Dec 2010, David Rolls wrote:

    28 & 32

    Remind me - who was in last seasons ECL final? Was it Bayern?

    Only fans of teams like Liverpool think how good we were in the past.

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  • 37. At 4:15pm on 08 Dec 2010, Mikey wrote:

    David Rolls.. I know where you are coming from because I prefer to watch the Bundesliga as I think its consistently better than the premiership..

    Saying that I would still fancy any of the English teams to be able to handle any German teams in the Champions League this year..

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  • 38. At 4:17pm on 08 Dec 2010, markojuok wrote:

    anyone still scared of drawing Inter?

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  • 39. At 4:26pm on 08 Dec 2010, Aarfy_Aardvark - bring back 606 wrote:

    Yeah but isn't the language of choice in Donetsk actually Russian? And more to the point isn't there actually more ethnic Russians in Donetsk than Ukrainians? ;-)

    @35 - No corporate devils in Germany eh? I wonder how much Gazprom invested in Schalke? Unless a Russian oil magnate wiping out your clubs debts is not corporate and foreign enough for you.

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  • 40. At 4:28pm on 08 Dec 2010, ukdutchman wrote:

    Mistake Inter is second so they avoid them, can go to Shalke but thats it since ManU and Chelsea top their group

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  • 41. At 5:18pm on 08 Dec 2010, Seb wrote:

    I know this has already been said but I did find the 'russian' comment very offensive. Such a comment is comparable to calling a Southern Irish team English or a Dutch team German, only 10 times worse. I have many family members who would take this very badly. Also, it is not 'the Ukraine' as this is a russian term that also causes offense, simply 'Ukraine' please.

    True, Donetsk does have a high ethnic Russian population but so too, Ukrainian. The fact remains that this is a Ukrainian club, representing Ukraine with no ties or allegiences to anything Russian. This fact could be missed however due to the number of Brazilians and other foreigners in the squad, something Arsenal fans can symathise with.

    Anyway I hope they do it and Arsenal go crashing out. Thats what the Gooners fans need to finally make them realise they are not a massive club, just pretenders.

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  • 42. At 5:44pm on 08 Dec 2010, Kevin wrote:

    Whilst I am pleased for Lucescu (having seen the way he was treated when Inter boss some years ago), I'm afraid I don't share the "good luck", sympathetic wishes of success to Shakhtar.

    English clubs - and also Italian clubs, to think of it - get hugely criticised by the media and, more often, UEFA/FIFA committee members for not blooding young domestic talents, and instead consistently favouring imported talents from all over the world. Rightly so, as neither, as it stands, is going to develop enough players to make a squad capable of challenging for major honours at international level. However, don't be so quick to point the finger at England when Shakhtar have just as few - even fewer, in some instances - domestically produced players in their squad: how many non-Ukrainians (many of whom Brazilian) regularly line up for them as key members of the first team?

    If Shakhtar were keen on producing their own talent and putting faith in domestically produced youngsters, THEN I'd show them more sympathy. But, as long as they avoid criticism for adopting the same strategy as a number of Premier League/Serie 'A' clubs, don't expect any "good luck" wishes from me.

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  • 43. At 6:01pm on 08 Dec 2010, Gassing Pirate wrote:

    No-one else think that Wenger may want to come second in the group? Arsenal always seem to play better against the "better sides" and sides that they are expected to lose against.

    Only last year against Barca that has seemed to back-fire. But then again that Barca side was the best in Europe, even if Inter managed to beat them by being fortunate and Barca having a legit goal disallowed.

    Real MAdrid are not that big a deal for Arsenal. Arsenal got thumped last season by Barca but MAdrid with one single player costing more than the entire Arsenal squad were humiliated.

    Mourinho's luck last year against Barca has run its course. Madrid are for the taking and I suspect Arsenal to progress even if SD top the group.

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  • 44. At 6:37pm on 08 Dec 2010, SirArseneInvincibleWenger wrote:

    Not bothered one bit who Arsenal could face if we qualify, got face them sometime, if we went out sooner we could focus purely on EPL,CC,FA

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  • 45. At 7:16pm on 08 Dec 2010, Big Ron wrote:

    Incredible really, as Donetsk have crushed the life out of the Ukrainian league, due to money pouring in from both European competitions, a majority foreign line up and an oliarch to almost rival Abrahimovich, people feel this is a wonderful story.

    No, its not. Its the bleak future of a Platini inspired European footballing wasteland. Built on the very foundations Platini says he wants to destroy with financial fair play and home based players.

    You really couldn't make it up.

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  • 46. At 8:21pm on 08 Dec 2010, BULawSchool wrote:

    Fantastic article Phil. Really enjoyed it. I think it's great that the BBC is covering some teams beyond the usual suspects.

    By the way, I'm Ukrainian and I can tell you guys not to be too harsh on the BBC about the Russian/Ukrainian confusion. It's not a big deal.

    Besides, Shakhtar is more of a Brazilian team anyway!

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  • 47. At 8:25pm on 08 Dec 2010, yozhik wrote:

    Actually, Shakhtar are more of a Russian side than Ukrainian. The Eastern part of Ukraine is totally Russian speaking and they sympathise both culturally and politically with the Russians. The majority of people in this region have no time for anything Ukrainian and many vouch for closer Russian integration.

    Speak to anyone from Donetsk and they'll tell you just that.

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  • 48. At 10:36pm on 08 Dec 2010, ukired wrote:

    To all those that have commented saying Eastern Ukraine is Russian influenced - it is no excuse for getting it wrong or muddying the waters.

    Not only does it undermine the independence of a young nation, it also negates to acknowledge that this Russian influence in the Donestk region is the result of brutal and quite successful suppression of Eastern Ukraine under the Soviet regime.

    This may be a football blog but the issue of nationality is a very serious issue to some people - thats why it matters.

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  • 49. At 11:55pm on 08 Dec 2010, Ross Quinn wrote:

    People from Berwick (unofficially) voted a few years ago and said they would rather be a part of Scotland than England because of the benefits so when is the handover ceremony. I'm sure a few people would have something to say.

    Donetsk no matter how Russian influenced is Ukrainian. We followed the Americans into war does that make us Yanks.

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  • 50. At 00:10am on 09 Dec 2010, TheresOnlyOneManchesterUnited wrote:

    what are the first few comments on about? there is no link to anything what so ever

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  • 51. At 12:32pm on 09 Dec 2010, will wrote:

    @35, JamTay1
    So the question is for 1 extra Champions League win is it worth prostituting your clubs history, ripping off the loyal fans, and having a two horse title race?
    By the same token, you would surely consider the Portuguese league to be superior to the Premier League then?

    By the way, I wasn't considering attendances, atmosphere etc at all. I was purely considering the level and quality of football, hence my disbelief.

    Thanks for the "Premier League blinkers" jibe, but I actually watch the Premier League, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, Ligue 1 and La Liga. I enjoy all of them for different reasons, but there is no question that the Premier League is far above the Bundesliga in terms of level and quality of football.

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