Ukraine ‘HOSTs’ Estonia in the penultimate International fixture of the year in Zaporizhya, as they play in the historical city for the very first time!
Home to the famous Ukrainian horse back warriors, the longest avenue in Europe and an enormous hydro electric dam; it is Zaporizhya’s Slavutych Arena that gets the latest nod to host a senior Ukraine game! This fixture’s location is the latest in the UAF’s attempts at branching the reach of the Zbirna across all corners of the country.
Despite it being only a friendly, this will be the first time for many natives of the Southern Ukrainian city at seeing their exciting home nation live in the flesh and it has been confirmed as a sell out!
Shevchenko’s men go into this break at relative ease. Qualification for next summer’s EUROs and top spot in the group was confirmed on a famous night against Cristiano’s Portugal last month, leaving the final fixtures as extra preparation for the 2020 tournament.
The game against Estonia is an official friendly and its wholly expected that the head coach will experiment in this game at a minimum. These two fixtures will give Sheva, a good gage into the strength in depth that he has at his disposal; ticking off the remaining names on his future squad list for next year.
A lot of his changes on this occasion will be forced upon him due to injuries and suspensions. Naturalised Ukrainians, Marlos and Moraes are injured. Zinchenko is also recovering from knee surgery. Konoplyanka has just recovered from a hamstring problem but is touch and go for today after suffering from a temperature yesterday. Mykolenko is still recovering from a knock but will be back for Sunday’s tie.
Meanwhile, Malinovksyi, who was carrying a light training injury has been given a few days off in order to witness his daughter’s birth, who was born yesterday. Stepanenko was not called up due to his one game suspension that will be enacted against Serbia. This has meant that Dmytro Ivanisenia of Zorya has been given a call up and is highly likely going to get some minutes in the makeshift squad tonight at his club side’s ‘home’ stadium.
This match shouldn’t come as too much of a real test for Ukraine, with Estonia similar to their Baltic neighbours, Lithuania in terms of ability. The Estonians have not won a single game of qualifying in their own respective group and have failed to score in 306 minutes prior to this game. On paper, this should be a walk in the park. Goals should be expected regardless of the Zbirna’s XI.
It will be a good warm up ahead of the final qualifier in Serbia, that Shevchenko has reiterated his side will be taking very seriously despite their comfortable circumstances. Furthermore, tonight’s game is a real opportunity for some of the fringe squad players to show what they can do.
Ukraine are also chasing a personal record in these final two fixtures. If they avoid defeat in both, they will ensure a first ever unbeaten calendar year.
Predicted line up: