Exiled Shakhtar miss home support against Bayern
17 February 2015, 13:11
Kiev - War refugees Shaktar Donetsk go into a Champions League clash with high-flying Bayern Munich on Tuesday starved of competition and support and far from home.
With shells falling regularly on their state-of-the art stadium, Donetsk have been condemned for the past year to play homes games far from the Donbass Arena.
Donetsk will host Bayern in the last 16 Champions League home tie more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away in Lviv, close to the western border with Poland.
The war in eastern Ukraine where government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists has taken its toll one of the most successful clubs in eastern Europe.
Having won five Ukrainian championships in a row, Donetsk have lost three times this season in the league and are five points behind league leaders Dynamo Kiev.
Their home league games are currently played in the 1,700 capacity Bannikov Arena in Kiev. The Donbass, now used to hand out humanitarian aid to war refugees, has a capacity of more than 50,000.
"It wasn't easy this season as we all had the feeling that every match was an away game," said skipper Dario Srna, a Croatian international.
"We really miss our fans' support. But we'll do our best to bring some joy to those, who love Shakhtar, in these rough times.
"I believe that one day we will come back to Donbass Arena. We all dream about that."
Donetsk supporters are praying for a win to ease their suffering.
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"They are the only light of our lives here in war-hit Donetsk," Pavel, a 21-year-old student, told AFP.
"I know it will be hard to oppose Bayern but we all hope for the better. We love Shakhtar very much and we all wish them a success."
Donetsk set Champions League records on their way to the tournament's knockout stage.
They finished runners-up to Group H winners Porto and posted a 7-0 win at BATE, with Luiz Adriano scoring five goals.
Donetsk became the first team to build up a 6-0 half-time lead in the Champions League.
But few the Ukrainian side much hope against Bayern Munich. They have only been preparing with friendlies during the winter break. The Ukrainian only resumes on February 28.
However, Donetsk's Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu, who has led the club to eight Ukrainian titles and the 2009 UEFA Cup final, believes his team can pull off an upset against the German giants.
Lucescu said he had been to Munich to scout on his team's opponents.
"They looked very impressive and were in control of the game. However, like any other team they also have weaknesses. It leaves us chances for a positive result.
"Of course on the paper they look favourites, but it doesn't mean that they're already through," said the Romanian.