With qualification already secure and with Saturday’s league game against Real Madrid looming, Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola has chosen to rest eight players for the visit of Shakhtar.
Samuel Eto’o, Víctor Valdés, Daniel Alves, Carles Puyol, Rafael Márquez, Yaya Touré, Xavi Hernández and Lionel Messi have all been given two days’ holiday and will not feature in the squad to face Mircea Lucescu’s team.
“There are a thousand different things you can learn as a coach on a night like this,” argued Gurdiola. “The guys I pick will hear me telling them that on the night they are Barça’s first team, that I expect them to win, and that I’ll demand they recognise the prestige of playing in the Champions League.
“I understand that around this city everyone wants to talk about the match against Madrid this weekend, that everyone thinks the reason for me resting senior players is El Clásico, but that’s not true.
“All eight players are already carrying a lot of games in their legs and they will benefit from the rest in the medium term, not just for the weekend. Also, I want to see hunger, concentration and quality from those players who don’t get so many opportunities, particularly because Shakhtar have given us our most difficult European game this season.”
That last-minute 2-1 win for the Barca in Donetsk on Matchday 2 still rankles with Lucescu.
“We didn’t get the result we deserved and I’d like to put that right at Camp Nou,” said the 63-year-old Romanian.
“Had we won, the pressure Barça would have been under could have changed the entire face of Group C. So, although we cannot qualify for the next phase, my players had better not think they are here on holiday.”
Striker Brandão is available after suspension and defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy is expected to recover from a thigh problem to start.