The UPL returns this weekend after a two week hiatus due to the international break. There are some big games this weekend, with Shakhtar taking on Zorya and Desna visiting Kyiv in a battle of 2nd against 5th!
Ukrainian Football Update:
Ukraine played two games during the international break and both can be deemed as positive results and performances. The first game came in Vilnius as Zbirna took on Lithuania in the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Zinchenko, Malinovksyi and Marlos grabbed the goals as Ukraine won 3-0 in front a home-like crowd of 5,000 people at the LFF Stadium.
After this, they travelled to Dnipro, which hosted its first national team game for ten years. The city turned out and the stadium looked very much a sell out as Ukraine went 2-0 down in the first half. Sobol, Burda and Karavayev did not look very convincing at the back and the midfield lacked the holding stability of Stepanenko.
The game turned on its head in the second half after Konoplyanka came on to a rapturous welcome at 70 minutes. His introduction caused both the crowd to raise in spirit and gave hope to the team as well. Two quick fire goals within a minute of each other from man of the match Zinchenko and a fortunate rebound for Yaremchuk gave Ukraine a share of the spoils versus Nigeria!
They now look forward to the competitive double header in October versus Lithuania and Portugal at home!
Meanwhile in the UPL, there have been a number of managerial changes and some notable transfers!
On European Transfer Deadline Day, Shakhtar Donetsk signed Yevhen Konoplyanka for under €2 million. It was a huge surprise and will bolster the team’s chances of challenging in their Champions League Group. Concurrently, Shakhtar look to move even further ahead of their UPL rivals with the experienced winger strengthening them in the league as well.
Elsewhere, Roman Sanzhar was announced as the new Karpaty Lviv manager replace Chyzhevsky, much to the detriment of the Karpaty Ultras who were happy with the previous manager and just long for managerial stability. Bottom club Olimpik Donetsk also announced a permanent replacement to Julio Cesar, by announcing Spaniard and former Dynamo backroom staff man Vicente Gomez as their new head coach. Most recently, Lviv also decided to get themselves a new manager by appointing Volodymyr Mazyar to replace Blavatsky, who has not shown too much promise since being appointed towards the end of last season!
Many surprises await this week with so many new appointments. It’s going to be interesting in the UPL!
Oleksandriya v Dnipro-1
Oleksandriya have had a mixed start to the season but return from the international break sitting fourth in the table. However as it’s so tight up until second place, they’ll need to remain compact and disciplined in order to keep up this top half position in the table.
Sharan’s men will have one eye on their debut Europa League group stage game on Thursday versus Wolfsburg and as such will want to put this game to bed early in order to give some key players a bit of a rest.
They beat narrowly beat an in form Vorskla last time out with set pieces coming into play. They face a Dnipro-1 side, who themselves are not too far off the European spots. They defeated Kolos a fortnight ago, to pick up their second win of the season.
Buletsa has been the side’s creative maestro so far this season and will be looking to cause problems for the Oleksandriya defence, who will be trying to preserve freshness for the midweek tie.
This game is relatively unpredictable with both sides able to score when it counts. A score draw seems the most reasonable assumption. 1-1
Shakhtar Donetsk v Zorya Luhansk
Our Game of the Week, sees another incarnation of the Donbas Derby take place in exile for the fifth year in a row.
It’s a battle between first and third. Arguably the two most exciting sides in the league face off with one aiming to win their first SEVEN league games in a row whilst the other hopes to move into second and push further away from Dynamo Kyiv.
Shakhtar are expected to give a debut to new signing Konoplyanka in this one who has played a mere 20 minutes (for Ukraine) of competitive football this season. So don’t expect to see him from the start. Elsewhere, Moraes picked up a knock on Ukraine duty but looks to have shaken it off as he has travelled with the side.
Meanwhile Zorya boast an extremely promising, youthful squad which also impressed over the international break. Key men, Bohdan Lednev and Nazariy Rusyn scored for the U21s versus Malta and will be looking to make an impression in this one. They have added motivations, with their parent club Dynamo Kyiv likely to be grateful for any points taken off the steamrolling Shakhtar!
Despite their 2-2 draw with Dynamo and coming back from 2-0 down in that game; Zorya’s defensive frailties are likely to be exposed a lot more versus an unforgiving Donetsk side. Shakhtar’s defence is a lot more disciplined and organised than their arch rivals and as such aren’t the type of team to give up a big lead.
It will a tight affair and a fiery one, if precious seasons are anything to go by, but one Shakhtar should just edge especially with the ‘home’ advantage. 2-0
Karpaty Lviv v Vorskla Poltava
Roman Sanzhar’s new side welcome Kosovsky’s men to Stadion Ukraina. Despite the outcry of yet another managerial change, many see the potential positives that the former Olimpik Donetsk head coach can bring. Karpaty sit second bottom but have been playing well despite results.
Sanzhar will aim to instil a solid defensive set up that concedes little but scores just enough to edge wins. During the international break, Karpaty signed Moldovan forward Alexandru Boicuc to shore up the attacking line up that hasn’t been too reliable when it has come to goals so far this season. Time will tell whether the managerial decision was correct, but as of now Karpaty fans should embrace the new appointment.
Vorskla were looking good before the international break came along. A few wins for the side and goals for Yuri Kolomoyets looked as though the side had finally found their groove. However, a loss to Oleksandriya, once again raised questions as to whether the attack can be consistently relied upon.
Despite this, they now have some stability under Kosovsky and should look to exploit this against a potentially ‘new look’ Karpaty.
This fixture has goalless written all over it and in the grand scheme of things won’t be too detrimental to either side. 0-0
Mariupol v Olimpik Donetsk
Mariupol are aiming to get into a bit of winning form after their win over Lviv last time out. They host Olimpik Donetsk who remain bottom of the table on one point from six games.
However, the visitors have a new foreign manager. During the break, the management team replaced caretaker Klimovskyi with former Dynamo Kyiv backroom staffer Vicente Gomez. He hasn’t had too much experience as the main man in charge and this could prove further detrimental to the struggling Donetsk club.
Is Gomez the man to be able to link up the disjointed defence and attack and integrate over 10 new signings into a club that currently looks to be in free fall? Only time will tell. It’s difficult to predict as to what kind of line up Gomez will pick but it’s likely to include Dieye spearheading the attack. He has not hit the heights of last season yet, but once he does get going it will be a big positive.
Mariupol are nowhere near the team that finished fourth last season. Vakula has impressed but elsewhere the team seems to have been affected by the Europa League run. Now it’s been almost a month since that exit, the club should be able to forget about it and focus solely on the league. With a host of U20 talent, some of whom made the step up to U21 in the break; Mariupol should be able to challenge for the top six. It’s games like these that they need to win to ensure they don’t end up in relegation battle.
Mariupol to come out on top in this one. 2-1
Dynamo Kyiv v Desna Chernihiv
Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko’s second Dynamo stint resumes after the international break with a game against the side second in the table – Desna!
Two draws in his opening two games have already started the jokey ‘Bring Khatskevich Back’ calls. Not much has looked to have changed under the new boss. Tsyhankov has yet to find his feet this season and the defence has been a shambles.
The transition from the back to attack doesn’t seem to have been focused on in training sessions, with the similar line ups to Khatskevich, bar that of Kadiri at defensive midfield. Shakhtar are currently in a different class, with the league’s competitiveness suffering as a result.
Desna, have taken to their second season in the UPL in style. They’ve been consistent and sit three points ahead of Dynamo. Their danger areas come from across the pitch, with players across the park contributing to to goals. Denys Favorov has been getting them from full back whilst Fillipov has been consistent up top. This is not going to be a walk in the park for Dynamo by any stretch.
Goals will be aplenty in this one. It will be entertaining but less so for a Dynamo fan. Surely, they can’t fail to win 3 games in a row. 2-1
Kolos Kovalivka v FC Lviv
The final fixture of the weekend sees Kolos take on Lviv. Kolos have been in decline in recent weeks as the league’s quality catches up with them. Meanwhile FC Lviv have been more inconsistent in their form. They’ve won a couple but also lost their most recent fixture. Another managerial change occurred here with Blavatsky being relieved of his duties and Veres manager, Mazyar taking charge. He’s quite a character and will be a welcome addition to the UPL!
It will be interesting to see how he uses the Brazilians in the teams and whether he can reinstate some of the defensive organisation that made Lviv so difficult to break down last season.
This one has another chance of being low scoring with not too much separating the sides. Brazilian magic may play a part in this one, but it won’t be enough. 1-1