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Champions League

FCB target away success

Here we go again! FC Bayern return to the European stage on Tuesday night after four league games in the second half of the Bundesliga campaign. The Reds start the knockout rounds of the Champions League in a Round of 16 tie away to Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk (Live in English from 20:45 CET on Twitter and Web Radio). FC Bayern have one clear target: A positive result to establish a position to progress to the last eight when the two teams meet in Munich for the second leg on 11 March.

“The Champions League is really getting going now in the Round of 16 and you have to approach the game with respect and maximum concentration. We want to get a result that sets us up to reach the quarter-finals,” declared FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on Monday afternoon ahead of the flight to Lviv. The match against Shakhtar is being played in the city near the Polish border due to the political situation in the east of Ukraine.

Put Ukraine crisis to one side

“We know the game is taking place under special conditions. That’s obvious,” said Rummenigge. UEFA decided the match would be played at the Euro 2012 venue 1,000 kilometres away from Donetsk, “and we have to accept that,” said Rummenigge. And Arjen Robben admitted the Ukraine crisis is “on the minds” of the FCB pros. “We are footballers but human beings first and foremost. Obviously it’s not good what’s happening there. You can’t just go there and forget all about it,” said the Dutchman.

“Of course, we know what’s going on as we don’t live in a vacuum,” said Holger Badstuber who celebrated a successful return to first team action in the 8-0 demolition of Hamburg SV at the weekend. The central defender was also quick to point out that FCB face “a difficult game” requiring maximum concentration from all the first team squad. “The situation is unusual but we have a game to play and we want to win it.”

Shakhtar on winter break

After Saturday night, the attention of the five-time European champions moved to the match against Shakhtar who have now reached the last sixteen three times. The fact the Ukraine league only restarts at the end of February - the last competitive match for Shakhtar was 69 days ago - is no reason for FCB to underestimate the opposition. “Shakhtar have 12 or 13 Brazilians under a coach who certainly knows what’s what. It won’t be an easy game,” said Rummenigge.

“I think a lot of people might underestimate Shakhtar. But they’re a very, very good side. They are very dangerous, have several very quick Brazilians and they pose a big threat on counter attacks. We’ll have to perform or we won’t get anything out of it,” warned Robben who is fully focused on the task ahead. “They’re tricky opponents with some talented players, particularly up front,” added Badstuber. Shakhtar’s Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano is the top scorer in the current Champions League campaign on nine goals.

Alonso fit - no Pizarro or Gaudino

“As the Barcelona coach I came up against Shakhtar four or five times. They have outstanding central defenders and excellent Brazilian midfielders, very quick players. They have bags of experience in this competition,” said Pep Guardiola, warning his players about the threat posed by Shakhtar. Guardiola will probably have Xabi Alonso available again on Tuesday. The Spanish stalwart, set to make his 100th appearance in the Champions League, missed the Hamburg game due to a muscle problem.

Jérôme Boateng, suspended in the Bundesliga, is also available. He could play alongside Mehdi Benatia in central defence. Guardiola will have to make do without Gianluca Gaudino (flu) and Claudio Pizarro (muscle injury) who both stayed behind in Munich. FCB go into the tough challenge against Shakhtar Donetsk boosted by the most recent victory over HSV. “We’re looking to take our form into the game on Tuesday,” said Bayern’s best Champions League marksman Thomas Müller.