THE UPL IS BACK! After a short hiatus due to the international break, Ukraine’s top division resumes play this weekend. The past fortnight has been extremely enjoyable for fans of the Ukraine National Team as they grabbed maximum points from their opening Nations League games. 

A last minute winner away against Czech Republic, a match that we saw live from the stands, caused jubilation amongst the large travelling support and from the millions watching back home in Ukraine. Ukraine added to this with a narrow win over Slovakia in an empty Arena Lviv. Whilst the playing style still raises questions and the lack of a killer edge still remains unsolved, Ukraine are in pole position to qualify for League A and the Nations League play offs. Marlos was particularly impressive against the Czechs whilst Karavayev and Matvienko caught the eye in the match versus the Slovaks.
Aside from the Nations League, the UPL ended two weeks ago with some shock results. Dynamo Kyiv were hopeless as they succumbed to a home defeat to Karpaty Lviv thanks to the wizardry of Ukraine U21 international, Mariyan Shved. This has seriously set Dynamo back in the title race, even at this early stage of the season. 

Beating Shakhtar home and away turns is not enough when the side drops points against the lower sides. Will the international break have helped Dynamo to recuperate and shake off their poor form going into the break or did it come at the wrong time? Zorya Luhansk are their next opponents who return to action having seen off Arsenal Kyiv in a 5-0 rout two weeks ago. We will see… 

The top two in the table also meet this week, with Oleksandriya hosting free scoring Shakhtar. Oleksandriya drew 2-2 to FC Lviv before the break and that result could set the precedent that will see them slowly return to their predicted mid table ranking. Shakhtar, and Junior Moraes in particular, have been on top form since their loss to Dynamo and they will be trying to halt any fairytale title challenges in their tracks on Saturday afternoon. 
Andrew Todos of Zorya Londonsk Weekly will be making predictions for every UPL game this season, against a variety of guests. 
Our eighth guest of the 2018 – 19 season is sport’s journalist, Nestor Watach. Nestor is a British Ukrainian, raised in Leeds. He is a diehard Leeds United fan but also follows Dynamo Kyiv and Ukraine due to his Ukrainian roots. 
Nestor’s Dad – Michael Watach – Leeds’ Biggest Fan

His passion for Leeds United comes from his ‘football-obsessed’ Dad. Nestor explains “Because my dad was a veteran groundhopper from his time supporting Leeds, every overseas holiday I had growing up was either for a Dynamo Kyiv European match or a Ukraine qualifier; such as taking me to the old Wembley in 1998 (Lobanovskiy’s legendary Dynamo side against Arsenal), Barry Town, Rome, Paris… and eventually back to the motherland for the first time in 2005. I’ve been back plenty of times since, most recently for the Champions League final in May.” Nestor’s holiday experiences resonate a lot with our own; booking trips to locations where Ukraine or Dynamo are playing and making sure the journey revolves around that! 
Nestor has also been to to each summer tournament that Ukraine have qualified for; Germany in 2006, home ground in 2012, and France in 2016. Nestor told us that “I was very privileged to have been there for Ukraine’s first ever World Cup match in Leipzig, even if it was a thrashing by Spain, but the all-time highlight was the 2-1 win over Sweden at the Olympiyskiy in 2012.” We are certainly jealous that Nestor saw these two historic games live whilst we skived off school to watch the early Spain kick off and then watched the Sweden match on TV too as it was mid way through GCSE exam season!
Nestor in his Leeds Utd Shirt behind A. Shevchenko – Euro 2012

Further to his obvious passion for football, we asked Nestor whether this drove him towards his current career as a sports journalist. Nestor told us “In terms of sports journalism, I was doing amateur writing and working boring admin jobs, and really wanted to do something I enjoyed. I’m lucky that I was in a position to do a master’s course in sports journalism in Sunderland, just a short commute from where I was living in Newcastle. It’s just finished now and hopefully I’ll be getting my foot in the door somewhere soon.” We wish Nestor the best of luck in his future sports writing exploits! 
As European football returns next week we decided to make Nestor reminisce about some memorable UCL moments involving Ukrainian sides. “It’s going back a long way, but when top-level European football wasn’t a closed shop, it was amazing to see Dynamo Kyiv go toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich, beat Real Madrid, and make the semi-finals of the Champions League. Shakhtar do remarkably well to get to the odd quarter final, but increasingly it feels like there’s a ceiling on what clubs in their position can achieve, and they probably push it to the limit.”  
Dynamo Kyiv v Shakhtar Donetsk – 2013
With the domestic league quality dwindling in recent seasons due to the War with Russia, we wanted to know what UPL moments also stood out for him in his memory. “In terms of domestic football, I followed it closest when I was studying abroad in Kyiv back in 2013. Shakhtar had an incredible team then and walked the title, but it was still fun. I went to several Dynamo matches, including in the Europa League, but the highlight was definitely the big Dynamo – Shakhtar match at the Olympiyskiy. Yarmolenko gave Dynamo the lead but Shakhtar won it with two Mkhitaryan goals.” 
In more recent years Nestor admits that it has become more difficult to follow the UPL on a regular basis. He still keeps afloat of the results and tries to watch the Ukrainian sides in Europe, but acknowledges that it’s been a while. “I suppose part of the issue is access in the UK. Relying on dodgy streams can be pretty frustrating. And in terms of writing, sadly there’s not a lot of demand on Ukrainian football so more recently my focus has been more on Spanish football and the Premier League.” 
We were also interested to find out a little bit more about Nestor’s recent work. Nestor has written pieces for ‘The Square Ball’, ‘These Football Times’ and ‘This is Anfield’ over the past few months with a piece about the Leeds United Four, in particular, being a fascinating read. Links to these can be found below. Nestor added “The Leeds’ midfield one was the most enjoyable piece I’ve written, because I was only a baby during that season so it’s as distant to me as the Don Revie team. It was so much fun to go back and watch all the footage and get to properly live it for the first time.” 
In terms of works in progress and what we can expect from Nestor in the near future, he told us “I’m currently putting together something on Arsene Wenger’s first title win with Monaco, which should be a long and in-depth read. I’ve even managed to speak to one of his former players about it.

At the moment I’m looking for my first proper journalist job, so we’ll see where that takes me. But while I’ve got time on my hands I’ll be taking the opportunity to do a lot more freelancing… Luckily Bielsa at Leeds is one of the most compelling stories in football this season and there’s plenty to write about there.”
As Nestor is quite the Leeds fan, we wanted to know how much he rated the club’s chances at getting automatic promotion this season.“I think the biggest question with Bielsa is always that of burnout, but the regular international breaks and massively increased fitness levels of the players should hold us in good stead. It’s early days but apart from Boro it looks really open at the top this year, so hopefully there’s places up for grabs. If Leeds can maintain the performances of the early season, and avoid key injuries, I’m very confident. But those are big ifs!” 
With Nestor’s Ukrainian background, we weren’t going to pass on asking him which Ukrainian side he saw going furthest in Europe this season. With three Ukrainian sides kicking off next midweek we wanted to know who had the best chances.Commenting on Shakhtar’s chances in the UCL, Nestor told us “It doesn’t feel right that Lokomotiv Moscow got the top seed position ahead of Shakhtar as a league winner, but I suppose the coefficient doesn’t lie and they’re paying the price for other Ukrainian teams underperforming. It looks like a transitional season for them, so they’ll do well to qualify out of the group, but a third place finish might be good for them because you’d fancy them as one of the favourites in the Europa League.”
Moving onto the Ukrainian contingent in the Europa League, “There’s no excuses for Dynamo, but it’s probably too big of an ask for Vorskla to qualify. The big two should definitely be playing knockout football come 2019, and then it’s the annual question of whether they can be fresh and at their best following the winter break. Hopefully they can both improve in that regard because it’s often been their undoing.” 
Overall Nestor is predicting Shakhtar to finish third but sees them going deepest in the Europa League knock out stages.

The Leeds United Ukrainians outside the NSC Olimpiyskiy


A correct result (WIN / DRAW/ DEFEAT) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns an extra 40 points.


Desna Chernihiv v Arsenal Kyiv
Todos’ prediction: Desna’s results this season have been rather unpredictable, winning away at Zorya one week then losing at home to Olimpik. However, I feel they will finally pick up their first home win of the season in a very narrow low scoring win, as is traditional of Friday night games. 1-0
Nestor’s prediction: Arsenal to bounce back with a conservative approach following the thrashing before the international break. 1-1


Oleksandriya v Shakhtar Donetsk
Todos’ prediction: Shakhtar may have been running rampant before the International break but I feel that if they are going to be challenged by anyone other than Dynamo this season it will surely be Oleksandriya. Will finish all square. 1-1 
Nestor’s prediction: Despite a tricky away trip to this season’s surprise package, I expect Shakhtar will still have too much. Júnior Moraes to maintain his hot streak.   3-1
RESULT: 0-2: MARLOS (26′), KOVALENKO (88′)

Karpaty Lviv v Vorskla Poltava
Todos’ prediction: Mariyan Shved has been on fire over the past month with goals against Dynamo and picking up two more on International duty with the U21s. Hence, why I feel that he’ll steer his side to a comfortable home victory against an out of sorts and inconsistent Vorskla. 2-0
Nestor’s prediction: Karpaty have been unpredictable this season. With Vorskla having one eye on the Emirates, they’ll lose this one. 2-1
RESULT: 0-1: DALLKU (90+2′)

Olimpik Donetsk v Mariupol
Todos’ prediction: This certainly wont be a high scoring game. Olimpik are quite solid at the back but do lack the killer blow in front of goal whereas Mariupol are the opposite. Score draw but not much else going on in this game. 1-1
Nestor’s prediction: Mariupol will be bottom come the end of the weekend, but this will be tight. 1-0
RESULT: 1-3: VAKULENKO PEN (26′) / FEDORCHUK (9′ & 89′), FOMIN (80′)
Zorya Luhansk v Dynamo Kyiv
Todos’ prediction: Surely Dynamo can’t go three games without a win the league or five games in all competitions? I have a feeling Zorya’s inconsistency this season will come to haunt them as Dynamo will be determined to notch three points up to prevent an even wider gap from opening between themselves and Shakhtar at the top. 1-2
Nestor’s prediction: Dynamo’s poor form to continue on this tough away trip. 2-2
RESULT: 1-1: HROMOV (44′) / SYDORCHUK (67′)

Chornomorets Odesa v FC Lviv
Todos’ prediction: Chornomorets continue to surprise me, week in week out. They have been tough to beat at home so far this season and I’m predicting they will resume their UPL campaign with a win. 2-1
Nestor’s prediction: A routine win for the home side. 2-0
RESULT: 0-1: DUARTE (43′)


Total scores after week 7
Todos v Guests
D1 L4

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