UKRAINE’S UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE REPRESENTATIVES:
League Finish 18/19: 2nd
UCL Finish 19/20: 3rd Qualifying Round
UEL Finish 18/19: Round of 16
Home Stadium: NSK Olympiyskiy (Kyiv)
GROUP B: Dynamo Kyiv, FC Copenhagen, Malmo, Lugano
19/9 – Dynamo Kyiv v Malmo
3/10 – Lugano v Dynamo Kyiv
24/10 – Dynamo Kyiv v FC Copenhagen
7/11 – FC Copenhagen v Dynamo Kyiv
28/11 – Malmo v Dynamo Kyiv
12/12 – Dynamo Kyiv v Lugano
Dynamo’s season has already been a rollercoaster of events and emotions and it’s only a month and a half old! Dynamo’s domestic season has seen two blips thus far and puts them on the back foot in their title challenge against Shakhtar. They have lost to their arch rivals and drawn with bottom side Olimpik. Further compounding Dynamo fans’ misery was their exit from the UCL qualifiers, meaning the side has missed out on the Champions League group stages for the third season in a row. That is their worst run this century!
Fortunately, this turn of events meant that Ihor Surkis finally bit the bullet and sacked the unpopular Aleksandr Khatskevich. Unfortunately, his replacement was another school of Lobanovskyi graduate. Former Rangers player and ex-Dynamo Kyiv manager Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko was drafted in for a second stint in charge. Time will tell, as to whether this appointment was a mark of genius or ‘more of the same.’
Expectations in Europe will be high. With Dynamo progressing from the UEL groups in all three of the Khatskevich seasons; the same will be expected from the new manager. With Dynamo as first seeds, they have been gifted a more than manoeuvrable group. Copenhagen are not what they used to be, Malmo are also a shadow of their 20th century selves, whilst Lugano are relatively European novices.
On his day, Viktor Tsyhankov is unplayable. He was Dynamo’s player of the season last year and has stepped up to fill the boots of club legend Andriy Yarmolenko. The tricky winger can play on either the left or the right but has been predominantly used on the latter side. He has pace, pinpoint delivery and an eye for a long range goal. Whilst he has proven that he can cut it in the UPL, it’s on the European stage where his reputation will rise or fall.
He has been key in a number of group stage games over the past few seasons, scoring against the likes of Astana or Rennes and this can be expected to continue. However, he often goes missing in the bigger games and it will be a test to see if he can change this if the side do progress to the later rounds.
Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko has returned as manager after his first go at the job was ended in 2004 by sacking. He did win silverware back then but that was very much a different era. As of yet, nobody knows too much as to how Mykhaylychenko will set his side up for European competition but early signs in the league scream of similarities to Khatskevich. Many are expecting more of the same; unadaptable game plan and a disorganised defence.
1st – Dynamo should finish top of this group with ease. Whilst the games do not signify that they will be high scoring, on paper at least, Dynamo’s squad looks to be the most experienced and superior in quality. The minimal expectations of fans and media is to better the European campaign of last season and make the Quarter Finals of the Europa League. It will all depend on whether Mykhaylychenko brings any sort of organisational improvement to the side, alongside his team selections.
Goal scoring forwards are something Dynamo have been lacking in for a number of years now. If Mykhaylychenko is able to get a tune out of Fran Sol or Rodrigues, then we could start seeing the beginning of something rather promising, after years of stagnation.
League Finish 18/19: 3rd
UCL Finish 18/19: N/A (Did not qualify)
UEL Finish 18/19: N/A (Did not qualify)
Home Stadium: Arena Lviv (Lviv)
GROUP I : Wolfsburg, KAA Gent, St Etienne, Oleksandriya
19/9 – Wolfsburg v Oleksandriya
3/10 – Oleksandriya v Gent
24/10 – St Etienne v Oleksandriya
7/11 – Oleksandriya v St Etienne
28/11 – Oleksandriya v Wolfsburg
12/12 – Gent v Oleksandriya
Oleksandriya were last season’s surprise package in the league. They comfortably finished third ahead of the likes of Zorya Luhansk and even challenged Dynamo for second place before the winter break. The efforts of Volodymyr Sharan’s men has been rewarded with an automatic group stage spot in the UEL.
However, due to UEFA rules, the Kirovohrad Oblast side will not be playing their fixtures at their home stadium, the NSK Nika. The transport links, number of hotels and stadium size all played a part in the decision. Oleksandriya have opted to play out their games at Arena Lviv, anticipating the city’s locals to be the most supportive of the side’s European campaign, out of all the alternative locations.
Having overachieved last season, Oleksandriya have had a mixed start to the season. They have registered a couple of wins but have also lost a few. It is unlikely that the club will reach the heights of last year but are still a difficult, well organised outfit to face.
Due to their novice European coefficient status, Oleksandriya were in Pot 4 for the draw. As such, they were drawn against some of the top clubs from Western Europe. Wolfsburg are no strangers to European competition, whilst St Etienne often give themselves a strong showing in Ligue 1. The most anticipated match up of the group will be against the Ukrainianized KAA Gent. It will see Ihor Plastun, Roman Bezus and former Oleksandriya man, Roman Yaremchuk return to Ukraine.
Yuri Pankiv is Oleksandriya’s veteran goalkeeper and was the recipient of the club’s 2018/19 Player of the Season award. His shot stopping was key in Oleksandriya’s low scoring matches last year; his clean sheet was usually followed up by a one or two goal margin victory. He’s also known for being fairly good at saving penalties.
With it being likely that the Oleksandriya defence will be overrun by Wolfsburg’s, St Etienne’s and Gent’s attacking lines, Pankiv will be the last outpost and the main man to keep the scores down. It’s going to be a busy campaign for the goalkeeper but one that will certainly help to bolster his reputation in his twilight years.
Manager and Line up:
Volodymyr Sharan follows a rather pragmatic approach when it comes to his coaching. When playing against superior opposition such as Dynamo and Shakhtar, he sets his side up to soak up the pressure, before using his pacey wingers and full backs to counter down the flanks. With his formations usually employing a sole striker, it’s key that build up play stretches the opposition to allow space to be created for the forward. Oleksandriya’s line ups will be defensive minded, aiming to score the odd goal while keeping the scoresheet low.
4th – Oleksandriya will put on a brave show in their debut group campaign but the gulf in class and millions will be apparent to see. Their opener, away against Wolfsburg will be the litmus test as to whether the side can hold their own against a top side. It is possible to envisage that the side can get a result here or there; potentially a draw or a shock win at Arena Lviv. However, anything further than that would be seen as a bonus. The players and manager should savour this moment as it is unlikely that such an occasion will come around again for Oleksandriya.