Zorya Luhansk travel to Barcelona to face Espanyol in their Europa League play off first leg tie. Whilst this can’t be classed as a David v Goliath match up, there certainly is a gulf in class and finance between the sides.
It will be a tough task for Zorya against the La Liga outfit. They miss defensive stalwart Vitaly Vernydub at the back, whilst their in form forward Nazariy Rusyn serves a one match suspension. His loss may be the most impactful, after the youngster took his shirt off to celebrate his goal in the last round, resulting in a second yellow. Zorya have been struggling for goals of late and his addition to the side was warmly welcomed due to his contributions so far.
Fortunately, Zorya’s man of the moment, Bohdan Lednev is available. He has had to make do coming off the bench versus both CSKA Sofia & Oleksandriya. These have been strange decisions from Skripnyk, especially as the attacking midfielder seriously bolsters the forward line when he’s on the field. He will be looking to add to his tally of three goals so far this season, as his side chases the vital away goal.
Their loss at the weekend versus Oleksandriya and an unconvincing 1-0 display against 10 man CSKA last week does raise doubts over Zorya are able to match up against their Spanish opponents. Skripnyk will need to organise his defence a lot more tightly and ensure the midfield isn’t as easily overrun due to its lack of defensive minded players.
Zorya can find some minor solace in the fact that Espanyol’s league season only started on the weekend and that they too suffered a loss (2-0 at home to Sevilla). However, the Catalan side has also been involved in UEL Qualifying and brushed aside Luzern and Stjarnan with ease. Piatti is missing for them along with Diego Lopez but overall the side looks to be going into the fixture at almost full strength. Zorya need to be weary of Chinese forward Wu Lei, who is still looking to establish himself in Europe.
A decent result tonight would be one that involves an away goal; ideally a victory but a score draw should suffice. In order for this to happen, Viktor Skripnyk will need to sort out his selection experiments and set up with the team’s key available players on the pitch. Hromov will be expected to pick up part of the goalscoring burden, after he returned from injury at the weekend.
These next two games have a lot riding on them. They have the ability to make or break Zorya’s season and help boost Ukraine’s declining coefficient rankings!