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Win or bust

Neuer: We like these situations

Wednesday evening’s Champions League Round of 16 return against Shakhtar Donetsk is a classic win or bust affair, with only one of the teams destined to progress to the last eight. And there is an extra edge for Bayern’s Rafinha, as the Ukrainian champions’ squad features no fewer than 13 Brazilians. The FCB man is utterly determined to prevail over the massed ranks of his fellow countrymen, explaining that it had been “an extra motivating factor for me” when the teams first met three weeks ago. “I was determined to play,” Rafinha said on Monday, “I know all of them, but you set aside your friendships in the match.”

A key to the Bavarians successfully negotiating Wednesday’s challenge will be to neutralise the visitors’ largely Brazilian forwards, the FCB camp agreed on Monday. “The first thing we have to do is defend well, and we did a good job in that respect in the first leg,” recalled Rafinha, whose 104 touches of the ball in the contest in Lviv were the most of any player on the field. The right-back is again expecting Shakhtar to pull men back and attempt to hit the Reds on the break: “We’re ready to deal with that.”

Must-win meeting

“We know we have to be cautious and keep their counter-attacks under control,” agreed Manuel Neuer in the build-up to his 75th European appearance. At the same time, the keeper argued, FCB need more creative attacks in order to prise open the Ukrainians’ massed defence, although Neuer does not feel he and his team-mates are under any special pressure. “We basically go into every game looking to win, and this is a game we have to win,” he declared, “we like these situations.”

Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Hannover, in which the Bundesliga leaders fell behind but recovered to win comfortably, confirmed Neuer in his opinion. “You can see we retain our composure regardless of what happens,” he stated, “we don’t start doubting ourselves even if something goes wrong.”

As a result, the 29-year-old has no doubt that Bayern will make the quarter-finals. “Donetsk are dangerous, but they only had one chance in the home leg,” recalled Neuer, echoing Rafinha with his final statement: “It’s a game we simply have to go out and win.”

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