Shakhtar and Malmo vying for Europa League spot in Group A
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 08, 2015 08:41 AM
Shakhtar's Fred, left, challenges for the ball with Real Madrid's Gareth Bale during the Champions League Group A soccer match between FC Shakhtar and Real Madrid at Arena Lviv stadium in Lviv, Western Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
PARIS (AP) — With both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain through, it's quite an anti-climatic ending for Group A in the Champions League.
PSG is guaranteed of finishing second behind Madrid ahead of its final game against Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukrainian side can seal a place in the Europa League if it matches Swedish side Malmo's result.
In the other group match, Madrid hosts Malmo.
Here are some things to know about Tuesday's matches:
Shakhtar Donetsk goes to France with the enviable record of having scored at least three goals in each of its last eight games in all competitions, including a battling 4-3 loss to Real Madrid last time out in the Champions League.
The driving force behind the free-scoring form is Brazilian midfielder Alex Teixeira, who has 26 goals in 25 games this season.
Unsurprisingly, that form has resulted in him being linked with a move to one of Europe's top clubs, with Brazilian media claiming PSG is one of those bidding for his signature.
The battle is on between Shakhtar and Malmo for third place and a ticket to the Europa League. If they remain level on points, Shakhtar will take the place on head-to-head record.
Shakhtar midfielder Taras Stepanenko said the team has no worries about playing in Paris after the attacks that left 130 people dead. No away fans will be admitted to the game for security reasons.
"It's obvious that we'd have liked to have our fans at this game. They always help us," Stepanenko said. "But given the situation that's developed in France, it's actually better this way, because people's safety and their lives are in first place."
Real Madrid is still smarting from its 4-0 loss to Barcelona and the embarrassment of having been disqualified from playing in the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player.
The team let off some steam by humbling Getafe 4-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday, but the Santiago Bernabeu's notoriously hard-to-please fans will no doubt want more — and so will president Florentino Perez.
A sullen-faced Perez has had to appear before the media to calm the mood after the Barcelona defeat and then again to try and explain the mix-up over fielding Denis Cheryshev in the opening Copa match at Cadiz.
There was fighting talk from Perez, insisting it was not Madrid's fault, but most people watching the match soon realized the Russian should not have been playing as he was carrying a one-match suspension in the competition for an accumulation of yellow cards last season.
A strong performance in the one competition Madrid cherishes the most — the Champions League — could be the soothing balm Madrid needs.
Karim Benzema will also hope to ease off-field cares by continuing his scoring streak after netting two against Getafe.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires in June, and there has been no indication so far that he will extend it.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc declined to say whether the Sweden striker will still be at the club next season after the 34-year-old Ibrahimovic became the club's all-time leading league scorer over the weekend, scoring twice in a 3-0 win at Nice.
Ibrahimovic is also PSG's all-time leading scorer with 119 goals in all competitions.
"He has been, he is and he may still be vital to PSG's project," Blanc said, while PSG captain Thiago Silva said he would like Ibrahimovic "to stay for sure."
Ibrahimovic has previously expressed his interest for an experience in the MLS.