Ukrainian football round up

It has been a historic and monumental past fortnight in the Ukrainian footballing world!

In case you missed it (where have you been if you have?!) Ukraine are going to EURO 2020! The Zbirna confirmed their qualification status after beating Lithuania and current European Champions Portugal. Simultaneously they also won their Group in the process. A singular point is needed in the final game against Serbia next month to guarantee a top seed ranking in the final tournament draw!

Ukraine’s performances were breathtaking. Contrary to Western media reports, who seemed to have only watched highlights of the game, Ukraine played some beautiful fluid football as the entire team carried the heavy expectations of an entire nation!

Under Shevchenko and his coaching team, this new look, balanced Ukraine team have the potential to write themselves further into history as Ukraine’s greatest ever if they put on a good show across Europe next summer!

Zinchenko, Malinovksyi and Stepanenko are arguably the best midfield trio (collectively) that Ukraine has ever had, with the former two starting the majority of attacks, no longer needing to heavily rely on the wings as in previous generations. Both also contribute with key goals when called upon; most notably when Malinovksyi’s double ensured a comfortable win over Lithuania last Friday.

Meanwhile, Stepanenko sits in front of the defence, helping them out by stifling attacks and feeding his midfield partners; he seems akin to a Ukrainian Fernandinho and it’s no wonder that he has been recently linked with a move to the Premier League.

Yarmolenko looks to have adapted his game to no longer rely on his pace. He uses the overlap with his side’s full back to move the ball down the outside right channel. He also drifts in centrally on occasion to help out those attacks that originate in the middle.

On the other wing, you have Marlos or Konoplyanka. It’s still not certain as to who will deputise next year but recently it’s looked to be Marlos who plays a lot more centrally over. In fact he was in a false nine role according to Yaremchuk whilst the Gent striker was instructed to play more out on the left.

Yaremchuk, once more stepped up to the plate and got himself a goal using his predatory instincts. It finally looks like Ukraine has a forward that can actually finish when called upon.

Moving back to the defence. Mykolenko had another game to remember against Portugal as he stifled their right side and provided a vital assist for Yarmolenko to finish superbly. The Dynamo man also has an equally capable understudy in that of Eduard Sobol, who has also impressed in his appearances.

On the right side, Karavayev showed his best ability after a less than satisfactory start to his career at Dynamo. He reassured onlookers with a confident performance, one that complimented Yarmolenko down that right channel, and he didn’t make any rash decisions in or around the box. A return to his Zorya Luhansk form – long may it continue! Bolbat, his alternative, whilst not as defensively sound as Karavayev has shown he can also put in an assured shift when called upon!

In the heart of defence, Shevchenko has finally found a solid partnership after the self inflicted exile of Rakitskyi and the decline of Khacheridi. Shakhtar team mates Matvienko and Kryvstov, boosted by their regular playing time alongside each other at their club has instilled calm and reassurance at the back for Ukraine.

They shield the impressive Pyatov who seems to be going from strength to strength for the national team whilst still pulling off the occasional howlers for his club side. He’s closing in on 100 caps and some are arguing that he could be remembered as Ukraine’s greatest keeper (even emulating Shovkovskyi) should he be pivotal in next year’s final competition!

As already mentioned, Ukraine are assured of first place in the group with a game left to play! It’s the first time in their history that they have qualified in first place for the Euros! If they get at least a point against Serbia they will be top seeds!

UPL Matchday 10 recap:

Shakhtar maintained their runaway lead at the top with their 100% record continuing. They beat Dnipro-1 by 2 goals to nil.

Desna beat Olimpik 1-0 thanks to a late goal to stay in second on head to head as Dynamo also won to keep up the pace. They thrashed Kolos 4-0 at the Obolon Arena.

Oleksandriya bested a poor Karpaty 2-1 to also remain within a point of the chasing pack. Zorya were unable to follow up their high goalscoring form as they drew a blank in a full 0-0 draw with the poor Lviv. Elsewhere Vorskla got a point as they hosted Mariupol. That game ended 1-1!

A big fixture list awaits this week, as does European fixtures featuring the three Ukrainian representatives:

Shakhtar v Dinamo Zagreb

Dynamo v Copenhagen

St Etienne v Oleksandriya

PREDICTION TIME

Shakhtar Donetsk v Kolos Kovalivka

Shakhtar restart the UPL action after the international break in high stead. A whole host of their squad played a large part in Ukraine’s qualification for Euro 2020. If they can do it against the European Champions then they can certainly do it against the recently promoted village side Kolos.

It’s uncertain what sort of side Castro will play in this one, with the Friday kick off giving the Miners extra resting time ahead of their UCL fixture against Dinamo Zagreb. However going on data from previous pre European, league games, we can expect some youngsters and substitutes deputising. The likes of Konoplyanka, Dentinho and Bondar could feature as Shakhtar go for an eleventh straight domestic win.

Ruslan Kostyshyn has already revealed his game plan for Kharkiv. We will have eleven men behind the ball and will aim to shut Shakhtar out, whilst pouncing on the break. Their last outing, saw them hammered against a mediocre Dynamo, and as such, their chances against an actual high quality side seem even lower.

This is likely to see another big final result. 4-0

Karpaty Lviv v Lviv

This is without doubt the Game of the Weekend! It’s a pleasant change to give extra focus on a tie featuring teams that are neither from Kyiv or Donetsk.

Roman Sanzhar’s team are in woeful form. The Ultras are seriously unhappy and it seems the early season promise (despite a number of defeats under Chyzhevsky) is all but a distant memory. Goals are seeming harder to come by whilst the defence doesn’t look anywhere near as solid and organised as it was at the manager’s previous club Olimpik.

The bright sparks seem to be their Luxembourgish contingent but that says it all about how far Karpaty have fallen in just under a decade.

Lviv are in a similar state, but actually worse off. Rumours are circulating that the club could be wound up and folded during the winter break and if not, then next summer. Their Brazilian cohort has been nowhere near as influential as it was last season and their Ukrainian defensive line has seemed to have forgotten how to do their jobs.

Mazyar’s appointment has actually added next to nothing to this and as a result it doesn’t look too great for this side. Olimpik Donetsk are biting at their legs in the table and it could get ugly in just a few more Matchdays.

This game is going to be more remembered for the Karpaty Ultra displays off the pitch rather than any performances on it. Hostility against ‘FC Shit’ as the Banderstadt calls their opponents is extremely high. However, it still seems difficult to envisage that pyro and smoke will help rally players to turn up and play well. Karpaty to nick it. Just! 1-0

Zorya Luhansk v Desna Chernihiv

On any other week, you could have tipped this game to nick the ‘Game of the Week’ but alas it does not.

This could prove to be a seriously entertaining match up against two of the league’s top clubs. However, it should be noted that Zorya only managed to record an underwhelming 0-0 draw with second worst side in the league, Lviv before the break. Whilst Lviv were evidently with their backs against the wall, it showcases that the Luhansk side’s inconsistency is in part down to the youthful nature of the squad.

Desna on the other hand continue to go from strength to strength. They also struggled against bottom side Olimpik but were able to get the winner regardless of how late it came. This game will be tight, the forwards are likely to be frustrated with both sides having rather resolute defences. Not too much looks to separate these sides on paper. Low scoring draw wouldn’t be a surprise. 1-1

Mariupol v Dnipro-1

Seventh place visits Eighth in a game between two clubs who have been rather average this season. They haven’t pulled up any trees but certainly look like they won’t be battling with the depths of relegation until at least after Christmas.

Dnipro-1 had the dreaded double header against the traditional top two in their previous fixtures and as such are on. Poor streak. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem as the remainder of the league are where the real points are to be won.

However, the way Dnipro-1 have looked so lacklustre at creating chances, could be a signal of worrying times ahead. Buletsa has been out of the team of late but scored a brace in a friendly during the break. He’s likely to return to the team and will aim to try and inject some creativity into a machine that seems out of ideas.

On the other hand, Mariupol continue to trundle along by picking up draws against the likes of Vorskla. It remains a struggle to see them retain a top six spot just based on the fact that their attack is so underwhelming due to the false nine formation they play. Goals are very difficult to come by. This might change once Fomin returns but even still, it seems defensively is where Mariupol’s games will be lost or won. Khudzhamov in goal has been key to these performances at the back and will be aiming to stifle Dnipro-1 this week. 0-1

Dynamo Kyiv v Oleksandriya

It’s a battle between 3rd and 4th as Oleksandriya are welcomed to the Ukrainian capital.

In an international week where only a select few Dynamo players represented Ukraine, it will be interesting to see whether Mykhaylychenko has conjured up anything new to try and root Dynamo out of their recent mediocrity. It’s all well and good to beat lowly Kolos by a few goals but this counts for nothing when you end up losing or drawing elsewhere in the league or in Europe.

Consistency has been difficult to maintain and Oleksandriya will cause Dynamo’s defence problems. Denys Boyko is now out until 2020 and as such Dynamo will need to rely on Georgiy Bushchan. He should be more than capable of stepping up to the plate in goal. Up front it looks like Besiedin is on a bit of form after the coach persists in starting the forward. Sol will likely remain on the bench for eternity whilst Rodrigues’ magic early spell seems to be waring off.

Both sides will have one eye on their Europa League ties in midweek. None more so than Oleksandriya. They will want to prepare throughly for a visit to St Etienne by recording a good result against Dynamo. Similarly to last season, it looks like the battle between these two sides could persist until later into the season with just a point separating them so far. Depending on what defence starts, Oleksandriya will be difficult to breakdown.

It can be expected that this game will end rather evenly. A single goal is likely to separate these two. Really could go either way but home advantage should just push it in Dynamo’s favour. 2-1

Olimpik Donetsk v Vorskla Poltava

Olimpik are in yet another rut. They’re still not entirely doomed with Lviv just two points ahead and equally not in the best state. However, it’s games like these against relatively weak lower half quality opposition where they need to pick up points.

They will feel hard done by after conceding a late goal and subsequently losing a vital point against high flying Desna. However it is still too early to tell whether they can turn a corner after losing 5-0 to Zorya the weekly previous to that.

Vorskla picked up a last minute draw in a rather uneventful affair against Mariupol and that result summarises their recent plight. They don’t really have too much quality in attack and as such do not threaten in the final third as much as a club of their stature should.

This game looks to be another drab affair with both sides’ forward lines severely out of form. If anyone is to make a difference it would be Dieye for Olimpik but even he has been off of the boil this season. Dead rubber ahead. 0-0

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