Roma have gained a new manager, won two matches, drawn one and lost one since their shock defeat last month by Shakhtar who are making their debut in the knockout round.
"We must think about one game at a time and we're going to Ukraine to win," said coach Vincenzo Montella after Friday's 2-1 victory at Lecce thanks to a late David Pizarro penalty.
Montella mentioned one game at a time because Roma, who were European Cup runners-up in 1984 when they lost to Liverpool in Rome, face city rivals Lazio in their next Serie A game on Sunday and wants to avoid his players being distracted.
There is a lot riding on Tuesday's game for both sides with Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu keenly aware of the stakes.
"For Roma it is the match that may save their whole season. For us it is the future that we have been waiting and longing for," he said after Shakhtar beat lowly Sevastopol 1-0 last week in their first domestic league match since late November.
The five-times Ukraine champions have had the upper hand over domestic rivals Dynamo Kiev since 2002, when wealthy local businessman Rinat Akhmetov took over as president, and tbey currently have a 12-point lead at the top of the standings.
But Roma, sixth in Serie A, head to Donetsk in much more confident mood than they were in the run-up to the first match with Claudio Ranieri having resigned as coach and Montella taking over as interim boss until the end of the season.
Montella has brought a breath of fresh air to the club which has lifted the team and, given their inconsistencies this term, no Roma fan would put it past them to beat Shakhtar in eastern Ukraine and turn the tables in the tie.
Conceding three away goals is a big handicap but Montella refuses to give up and is likely to field an attacking lineup with captain Francesco Totti available after a domestic ban.
The 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar are unbeaten at home, including their last 11 games in Europe, since moving to the Donbass Arena in August 2009.
And while they have lost five of their last six home games against Italian teams, the notable exception was a 1-0 win over Roma four seasons ago.
Shakhtar did not look impressive in their first Ukrainian premier league outing since the winter break began and needed a last-gasp goal from Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano to take the points from second-bottom Sevastopol on Thursday.
Lucescu was disappointed with the performance and partly blamed the lacklustre display on the Champions League.
"These are a very important three points for us ahead of the Roma clash," he said. "Some our players were already thinking about the game against the Italian team so I had to substitute them."
Shakhtar will be without central defender Olexandr Kucher and Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho through injury on Tuesday.
Roma playmaker Jeremy Menez is suspended as is right back Marco Cassetti, although he is injured anyway. Nicolas Burdisso may
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