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Vanhaezebrouck: Shakhtar are the Champions League team

Wednesday, October 19, 2016



Before the open training session, the head coach of Gent spoke to the media

- All the players to have arrived in Lviv are fine and ready to take the field tomorrow. 24 players have arrived to Ukraine, except Matton, Summakh and Schoofs.

- Both sides are known for their ability to control the ball. Can anything change in this respect tomorrow?
- In my opinion, Shakhtar are the best team in Ukraine in terms of ball possession. Gent are famous in that component in Belgium. So it is very interesting how the game will develop tomorrow. Since the Donetsk club are playing at the home arena, we will certainly try to keep everything under control. But we are ready for that. And what eventually happens – we will see tomorrow.

- Do you agree that we will see the match for the top spot in the group?
- I think it is too early to talk about that. We’ve had just two matches, having three more left after tomorrow’s one – that’s half the distance. Therefore, regardless of what happens this Thursday, there will be time for us to catch up. Right, after two games Shakhtar have six points, so they will have nine if they win it. And, of course, they will have a good chance of claiming the top spot in the group. But that’s not final. If we win in Gent, then we will be back to the competition. So we'll see how it develops. However, for sure it is too early to talk about the next meeting being paramount.

- Shakhtar moved to the Europa League from the Champions League. Last season, Gent were quite successful in that competition. Can you compare Shakhtar to such sides as Valencia or Zenit, whom you encountered last year?
- For me, Shakhtar are the team who should always compete in the Champions League. The club has everything it needs to do so: the quality performance, the players and the experience. This season, they were somewhat unlucky in the qualifying round, and we were very surprised that the Pitmen had not made it past Young Boys, because the Ukrainians are much better than the Swiss. Nevertheless, my players and I believe that this is a top team. And, basically, they are similar to the Champions League clubs we played against. Or maybe even better. Therefore, the encounter with the Donetsk team is a big challenge for us. And they are the toughest rivals we have played this season. In my opinion, Shakhtar belong to the best sides of the current Europa League edition.

- You’ve experienced some issues in away games. Why is that, and how are you going to solve them?
- Right, if you look at the results of away games, you might actually get the impression that we have some issues. But if you look at last season’s results, you'll see that this is not quite so. While recently, we played Brugge and Anderlecht away... The tough away games. We had enough opportunities to score in those games, but we never did it. With better conversion of our scoring chances and efficiency, we would have achieved better results. Something similar also happened in Braga: in Portugal we could easily claim the three points, but wasted numerous chances and just gave the points away.

- Shakhtar conceded just few goals this current season, even keeping clean sheets in the Europa League group stage. What are you going to put up against this fact?
- This fact once again stresses the fact that Shakhtar are the best team in Ukraine and one of the best in Europe. We also conceded just few goals in Belgium. But there are many different clubs and a lot of different games. For example, we met with the Macedonian football leaders, who had kept clean sheets in their league, with us amassing six goals against them in two games. Later we played Braga, who also play well defensively, but we managed to disappoint them once, and could do more. And now we are facing Shakhtar. Again, this is a big challenge for us, but we will try to score again. We never play to draw, just a 0-0 stalemate, always attacking and looking for the ways to get on the scoresheet.

- The Belgian league features many Ukrainian players. But your team have none...
- Yes, that’s true. We have no Ukrainians in our squad. But never say never. Perhaps, we’ll have some in the future. In your country, there are many interesting players. However, we are not the richest club in Belgium, we don’t have the kind of money as the others do, to pay pretty penny for good performers.

- Are there any interesting players in Ukraine, particularly at Shakhtar, whom you would like to invite?
- The Donetsk club has many interesting players. The only question is whether we can get them. That’s the issue. Most of the players who might be of interest to us, are way too deer. Shakhtar is a big club. And it’s not so easy to buy a player from that kind of team. We might want to look towards the young players or other Ukrainian clubs... We find it very difficult to buy a player from some really strong side, because our most expensive move amounted to 2 million euros. Maybe in the future, this amount will increase, but certainly not now.