KIEV • Having travelled to Real Madrid without 10 of his first-team players last month, it is little wonder Luis Castro rates Shakhtar Donetsk's 2-1 win in the Champions League as one of his "greatest as a coach".
Not only was it the first time the visitors had defeated Real but it was also just the second time a Ukrainian side had done so since Dynamo Kiev's upset in 1999.
Things have not gone so swimmingly since - consecutive losses to Group B leaders and Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach, who are on eight points, mean they remain outsiders to qualify for the knockout phase for just the second time in history and the first since the 2017-18 season. Real need one win from two games to secure passage to the last 16.
However, a victory for the hosts today will change the complexion. It would enable Shakhtar to move level with the Spanish champions on seven points. Real's last group game will be at home to Monchengladbach.
Progression remains an uphill task as 13-time European Champions Real want to seal their place in the next round as soon as they can to focus on the league, but Castro believes his side can shock Zinedine Zidane's men again.
Taking heart from Real's poor form in La Liga - they have lost three of their past five home games - he told Spanish daily Marca: "It happens every weekend, the big teams seem unstable.
"One day, they have a great game with a great performance and then the next day, the level is not good. This is a conclusion of mine drawn from the results that the teams are showing. This Champions League group is very strong... But we do not stop having hope and in this game against Madrid, many things will be determined.
"It is a very complex job that we have ahead of us but we have our hopes. We always want to present a strategy that can cause surprise, that Madrid can fail with, and that we can be successful.
"There are still possibilities for the four (teams including Inter Milan). I think the group will be decided on the last day. But of course, if Madrid win, they will qualify and we will play (for the) Europa League on the last day."
Real revealed their travelling squad yesterday, leaving out the likes of captain Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio, both injured.
The club also confirmed the extent of Eden Hazard's seventh injury since joining last summer.
The Belgium forward, who suffered another problem over the weekend, has already missed a total of 37 games and will be out for another three weeks. Zidane had some positive news with top scorer Karim Benzema passed fit following a three-game absence.
SHAKHTAR V REAL MADRID
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