DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Shakhtar Donetsk hasn't been sitting idly by during the Ukrainian league winter break, waiting to welcome German champion Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League.
The three-month winter break doesn't end in Ukraine until March 1, but Shakhtar has been playing friendlies, and won 10 out of 12.
The team is at full strength and is excited to showcase its newest acquisition, 25-year-old Brazilian forward Taison, who came from Kharkiv Metalist during the winter transfer window.
To reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998, Dortmund will have to once again demonstrate superb play on the road against a formidable opponent that is quickly making a name for itself in Europe.
Dortmund will also need to bounce back from a 4-1 loss at home to seventh-place Hamburg over the weekend.
Firmly in second place in the Bundesliga, Dortmund will be without midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz, who has the flu, and influential defensive midfielder Ilkay Guendogan, who has an inflamed toe. Left back Marcel Schmelzer is back after a foot injury.
"We weren't good against Hamburg and deserved to lose, we'll be better on Wednesday," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said.
"We have some positive experiences against German sides," Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said. "But Dortmund won the strongest group in this season's competition and that gives you an idea of how good they are.
"No one else in the Bundesliga plays such a passing and flowing game as Dortmund. However, Shakhtar have reached such a level of development that we have to think about our own preparation before thinking of the other team."
"To get a good result they will do their best and it could play to our advantage, because their great desire to win can lead to many faults," Rat said.
Shakhtar's overall record against Bundesliga teams is five wins, two draws and three losses. Dortmund doesn't have a bad record either against Ukraine clubs, as it has yet to lose in six previous contests.
Durtmund won the Champions League title in 1997 and then reached the quarterfinals the next season. Shakhtar has appeared only one other time in the last 16, overcoming Roma in 2011 to reach the quarterfinals.