Mircea Lucescu: It’s always tough for us after international duty

Head coach of Shakhtar answered the questions from journalists.

- Mister, how are the players who got injured?
- Speaking about internationals, Darijo’s fine. The injury they caused to him might have been much more serious. Shevchuk feels a little unwell, but he is going to exercise today. Kovalenko do not train: he’s had his wisdom tooth out and everything’s heavily swollen there.

- What about Rakits’kyy and Azevedo?
- Azevedo is in Brazil, he follows a special programme. Rakits’kyy trains individually. We’ll try to make him recover by the game against Braga, if we manage to. He definitely does not prepare for the game vs Metalist.

- Will it be hard to switch the guys from Metalist to Braga?
- It’s always very tough for us after returning from international duty. We do not work together for two weeks, plus the national teams have other requirements and training methods. Upon the return, it is difficult to make everyone rediscover their optimum form. It is necessary to restore the interaction and mutual understanding. There are certain challenges in it. Today we had a conversation on this topic: the international duty is over, the players must think just about the club. By and large, this month and a half will shape the results in all the three competitions we take part in: the Championship, the Cup and the UEFA Europa League. It will be difficult, almost continuously we will have to play once every three days. It is important to minimize injuries and restore the players as quickly as possible, including after the games. Plus the upcoming flights... there are certain problems. To some extent, we have got used to those flights, but they are very tiring. We also expect to move to another field for training. In such conditions, it is very difficult to work. It is even dangerous for the players to train on this kind of pitch turf. Let's hope that all the players will be healthy creating competition with one another. I am sure that we are facing a very tough game against Metalist. Everyone is trying to give their all in order to prove themselves. Surely you have seen how many fouls and cards there were in the most recent game against Vorskla - in the game which, by and large, didn’t decide anything. It’s good that no one got injured in that match.

- Shakhtar have been successfully changing attacking players after the transfers, but the situation with the central defenders is not so good... Is that due to the position specifics?
- I believe in those players. Today I’ve brought them the statistics of the games they played. Everyone has had match practice, they have played a sufficient number of matches. Unfortunately, they have not shown their best qualities in the games they played. I am sure that before the match vs Braga, we will bring everything in order, they will show their best side. Kucher is definitely not playing. It is unknown yet whether Rakits’kyy will recover. So hopefully they will firstly turn in a great performance against Metalist, and then they will prepare for Braga in a good mood. In front of them, Malyshev and Stepanenko will operate most probably - as the holding midfielders. In the Ukrainian Cup game, Dentinho played well offensively in the defending midfielder role. As for defensive performance, he didn’t cover the holding area as he was supposed to. From there, they made a delivery before scoring the second goal. As well as the first one. There was a penalty situation in that zone. I do not believe that the central defenders are to blame for the defeat. They just need to play more games as one pairing. By and large, one of them always plays with Kucher or Rakits’kyy, but together they had few competitive games. Therefore, they need to interact better, to be more attentive, and understanding between them will be recovered. I am sure that Andriy Pyatov can also give them some tips. In this respect, Bogdan Sarnavskyi was not quite helpful in the recent cup game. Their performance depends on other players, not just on themselves.

- At the moment, Shakhtar attacking third features many Ukrainian players: Kovalenko, Gladkyy, Malyshev. Is it possible that from the next season, for example, one of the central defenders will be a foreigner?
- This is, by and large, the club problem. I work with the players we have in the team.