After a week of European football action, the UPL restarts for its reverse cycle of fixtures…

Ukrainian football Round up!

Matchday 11 was a rather tame affair bar one high scoring game!

Shakhtar kicked us off last Friday with a 6-0 thrashing of lowly Kolos, who didn’t stand a chance in Kharkiv. Shakhtar, once again flexed its depth of talent as Castro rested a few key men ahead of the Champions League. Shakhtar made it their eleventh win out of eleven since the start of the season and remain the ONLY club in Europe with a 100% record! It looks difficult to see anyone being able to stop them domestically at this moment in time.

Onto midweek, as the Donetsk side welcomed Dinamo Zagreb to North Eastern Ukraine. In what was an entertaining and eventful match up, the score was level at 2-2 once the full time whistle went. Shakhtar can blame a rash and completely unnecessary takedown from keeper Pyatov at a corner that resulted in a needless penalty. Zagreb duly converted.

The Miners will need to improve defensively if they want to go far in this competition as on a number of occasions, they were caught sleeping and failure to pick up markers also resulted in the first goal being conceded. Shakhtar must now travel to Zagreb and aim to get a win or it may be Europa League calling!

Karpaty then ‘hosted’ Lviv in what was yet another forgettable Lion city derby. The game ended 0-0 and due to results elsewhere during the weekend, saw the visitors drop into the relegation spot! Little to no quality on show here!

Zorya then welcomed Desna. Despite seeing the visitors go ahead and looking like they would be securing another week in second place, the hosts had other ideas.

Skripnyk’s strange selection policy continued and it wasn’t until the introduction of star men Lednev and Rusyn at half time as to when the game changed in Luhansk’s favour. Lednev got the equaliser before a Yurchenko penalty inflicted Desna with their third defeat of the season. They dropped down into third.

Mariupol looked to be playing out a drab goalless draw against a once again underwhelming Dnipro-1, until former Dnipro man Fedorchuk got a nice finish to get vengeance for his former (now defunct) club. The game ended 1-0 full time.

Having seen results elsewhere, Dynamo Kyiv were ready to seize the opportunity to return to second. It wasn’t easy for them against Oleksandriya, who were rather unlucky to lose. A wonderful move started and finished by Mykolenko, ensured three points remained in the capital. Oleksandriya’s momentary lapse at the back was punished and their carelessness in finishing didn’t help either.

Following this game, Oleksandriya travelled to France to face St Etienne. Here they set up well and looked on par with their French counterparts. The atmosphere was hostile but they didn’t let it get to them even after going a goal down inside ten minutes.

They equalised shortly after thanks to an own goal and continued to threaten momentarily throughout the game. However once again the lacking of a clinical final pass and finish meant they weren’t able to get that historic first victory.

After this, Dynamo Kyiv saw Copenhagen travel to Kyiv as Benjamin Verbic started up front against his former club. He proved to be rather wasteful with his chances and was unable to truly get a hold of the game. Dynamo went down in under two minutes thanks to some seriously poor decision making from Sydorchuk and goalkeeper Bushchan.

They rallied back at the start of the second half, with Shabanov, maybe Dynamo’s most consistent player this season getting the goal from a set piece. However, following this the side just returned to being unable to string a flowing attack together with neither of the forwards able to impose themselves.

In the final UPL game of last weekend, Olimpik got their second win of the season and moved out of the relegation spot on head to head. Vorskla look to be a real crisis as they were leapfrogged by the opponents. They showed minimal ambition and just looked lost on the pitch as Gomez’s Olimpik deservedly picked up three points!

PREDICTION PREVIEW

Mariupol v Kolos Kovalivka

The return legs of the first half of the UPL begins this weekend! It’s a joust for a top six spot for at least a week as these two sides face each other for the second time this season!

Mariupol ended a poor run of form last week with a hard fought win against fellow near table rivals Dnipro-1. Albeit, the result was only 1-0, which still highlights Mariupol’s lack of consistent goalscoring prowess, but it shows they can grind out a result when required. The home advantage will play into this, with Kolos unable to rely on their usually raucous bussed in support at the Obolon Arena.

On the other hand, Kolos will be wanting to eradicate memory of their woeful double header against the league’s traditional top two with a more positive showing in this one. Despite conceding TEN goals in their past two games, Kolos should not be expected to roll over for a third game in a row. Their opponents on this occasion are certainly inferior in quality to their previous ones but equally it won’t be easy.

Kolos’ defence was seriously exploited by pacy wingers and direct attacking football, something Mariupol only have it part (the former). If Vakula returns, it should add to their attacking threat. However it’s unlikely that this game will have too many goals. Neither side has their first choice striker to call upon. However, they have been able to get the odd goal against equal to lower competition.

A draw seems the most plausible. 1-1

Zorya Luhansk v Vorskla Poltava

Harking back to a few weeks ago, when it was predicted that Zorya would have a field day against Lviv, (but ended up drawing 0-0) this fixture seems very similar prior to the game!

Zorya pulled off a seriously impressive comeback to win their first home game of the season late on against the exceeding expectations Desna and will be wanting to turn this result into a positive domestic run. Second place is not too far away and a few consistent performances and subsequent slip ups from rivals could see them return to a position of seasons’ gone by.

However, victory will be dependant on the line up that Viktor Skripnyk goes for. With Bohdan Lednev and Nazariy Rusyn coming off the bench last time out and completely changing the game, as they have done on more than one occasion this season, surely they will both warrant a starting place in this one.

Vorskla on the other hand seem to be in free hall. They look a shell of the side that once were once one of the most organised and well drilled sides in the league. Their football was never attractive, always grinding out results in rather ugly, route one fashion but they were consistent and resilient.

Now the side seems to be suffering from a mix of bad circumstances and personnel at its disposal – Inexperienced youngsters and flagging veterans.

The retirees just don’t have the energy or ability to keep up with the higher quality opponents they face on a weekly basis, whilst the youth are unable to learn on the job as they’re constantly called upon to firefight or are just isolated out of the game.

The side’s main problem, a lack of goals from anywhere on the pitch is now being highlighted on an elevated level due to the fact that there’s a crisis unfolding at the back.

With rumours of the owner having issues with banks and unpaid wages circulating too, Vorskla could be at the top of a slippery slope!

Zorya have failed to deliver when facing out of form opposition in the past but now that they have got their first home win under their belts, they are likely to push on and start challenging Dynamo.

It will be comfortable. 3-0

Olimpik Donetsk v Dnipro-1

Olimpik have been gradually improving ever since the appointment of Gomez as manager. Whilst they have experienced a number of defeats under his reign, the performances seem to be improving, especially in the past two matches.

The victory over Vorskla was fairly straightforward as their opponents were legitimately lacking in both grit and ability. But the result, which moved them out of the relegation spot will give confidence for their upcoming fixture against another side on the decline.

Dnipro-1 have been largely underwhelming in their debut season in the UPL. Despite having a number of exciting youngsters in their ranks, none of them have really exploded onto the scene as of yet. Buletsa has not been starting, whilst stalwarts in their winning Persha Liha campaign such as Nazarenko and Kohut have been inconsistent.

Dnipro-1’s main problem of late has been their lack of chance creation. Their last three fixtures have seen them lose rather narrowly, showing that they can be compact and organised on occasion but going forward there has seemed to be nothing. It’s all rather strange after a rather promising start to the season from the players formerly mentioned.

Supryaha seems isolated whilst the wingers don’t seem to be pushing on with any purpose or direction. Nonetheless, this game is a must win for them if they want to maintain distance between themselves and relegation.

This game really could go either way. Dnipro-1 will finally break their goal duct of recent matches but it won’t be enough for all three points. 1-1

Lviv v Desna Chernihiv

This fixture would have been much harder to call last season. Despite Desna losing the reverse fixture in the season opener, both sides have faced divergent paths in the 10 games since.

Desna dusted themselves off and coach Ryabokon has instilled a functional playing style that sees fluidity between attack and defence. Lviv are in a real state at the moment, with their Brazilians failing to bring the influence that they did so last season. A consistent goalscorer like Bruno Duarte looks to be the primary negative as the side hasn’t really shipped too many goals, but has seriously struggled to score them.

Desna will be ready to pounce on this with a rather strong squad. Club top scorer Fillipov missed last week due to a shoulder injury but may return for this one. Either way it looks like Desna will be out for revenge after that opening day defeat. Lviv need to weary of Kalitvinstev and Favorov in Chernihiv’s attack and maybe then, they can settle for a draw.

It won’t be plain sailing for the visitors but they will get the job done. 0-2

Dynamo Kyiv v Karpaty Lviv

These two sides have historic ties between supporters. There has always been a sense of brotherhood off the pitch. However at this current moment in time, it looks like they may have a fair bit in common on it, as well.

Despite Dynamo sitting in second place in the UPL, they’re nowhere near Shakhtar. Equally their performances are rarely anything to get excited about and at times this season they have been incredibly fortunate to get wins on the board.

Since Mykhaylychenko has returned as manager, not too much has changed in terms of playing style. It’s very much the same tactics and the players seem to be unable to string a contingent attack together without just hoofing it in from one of the wings. It’s very one dimensional.

Karpaty on the other hand are in serious plight. They’ve been below par all season but have significantly dropped off in quality since Roman Sanzhar’s appointment. Last week’s derby draw was another example of lack of inspiration in attack and the inability to create any meaningful chances.

It’s looking to be another long and difficult season for the Green and Whites. Either way, this looks to be a game where Dynamo brush themselves down after a disappointing midweek and see Tsyhankov get a brace before crawling back into this uncharacteristic shell. 2-0

Shakhtar Donetsk v Oleksandriya

Both sides return from picking up draws in Europe but it looks to be only one that may suffer from a hangover.

Oleksandriya seemed to leave everything on the pitch on Thursday as they battled to a superb 1-1 draw against St Etienne. However, with emotions and motivations high for such an occasion, it may prove difficult for Sharan to get his men as ready to face the most inform side in domestic European competition!

Shakhtar are on an eleven match winning streak, having not dropped any points in the league so far this season. They will be confident going into this game that they can make it twelve. They had a mixed game against Dinamo Zagreb in midweek but the UCL is a ‘whole different ballgame.’ It just looks nailed on that the Miners will pull out a victory once more, at home for that matter, no matter the team they line up with.

They may have one eye on their midweek cup tie with Dynamo but even still they have the strength in depth to play a whole host of top class players.

It won’t be as easy as last week for them but they should get this over the line with ease anyway. 3-0

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