Edin Dzeko hopes Roma can exploit Shakhtar Donetsk’s lack of winter football
Shakhtar have just returned from a three-month winter break.
Roma striker Edin Dzeko is hoping his side can catch Champions League opponents Shakhtar Donetsk cold in their quarter-final tie.
Shakhtar won the domestic double last season and are currently top of the Ukrainian Premier League, but have only recently returned to action after a two-month winter break.
“Shakhtar are a very strong side technically, but they have also played only once since their winter break,” Dzeko told Roma’s official website.
“Because of this we might be a bit further along with our preparations, but we have to give everything.”
Roma head into Wednesday’s first leg in Kharkiv on the back of three straight Serie A wins, which have put them back on course for another top-four finish.
They sit third in the table – albeit 15 points adrift of second-placed Juventus – but Dzeko believes they must hit top form to have any chance of reaching the Champions League semi-finals.
“Shakhtar, along with Liverpool (and Wigan), are the only teams who have beaten Manchester City this season – who at the moment might be the strongest side in Europe,” he said.
“Because of this we cannot take anything for granted, and give everything in both legs. The tie will be decided over 180 minutes, not just 90, so we must deliver in both games.”
Dzeko senses Eusebio Di Francesco’s side could achieve something special this season after their recent return to form halted a seven-game winless run in all competitions.
“We did well in the group stage, no-one thought that we could beat Chelsea or knock out Atletico Madrid,” the former Manchester City forward added.
“It’s something to be proud of that we have already done well in Europe, but we can’t be content.
“This is a chance for everyone – players, the staff, the fans – to go even further and we’ll give it everything.”
Coach Di Francesco will be without Rick Karsdorp (knee), Maxime Gonalons (calf) and Luca Pellegrini (knee), while Alessandro Florenzi is doubtful due to illness.
Shakhtar, who reached the last 16 by finishing behind Group F winners Manchester City and ahead of Serie A leaders Napoli, warmed up for Roma’s visit by beating Chornomorets Odesa 5-0 in their first competitive outing of the year.
Paulo Fonseca’s side won all their home games in the group stage, despite continuing to play 150 miles away from their home city of Donetsk due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Skipper Darijo Srna is serving a suspension for a failed drugs test, but otherwise the Ukrainians are at full-strength.