It’s been another packed news week for Ukrainian football despite the majority of the world’s sporting focus geared towards the the return of the Premier League in England. 

UEFA’s ExCo took place on Wednesday, confirming the future of a number of its competitions, in which Ukrainian sides will be taking part in.

The remainder of the Europa League will take place in August across a number of German cities – with the final ultimately held in Köln without spectators. Should Shakhtar hope to make it there; they will need to play out the second leg of the R16 tie with Wolfsburg.

It is still to be decided whether they will play this game in a behind closed doors Metalist Stadium or under similar circumstances in Germany. However, from the Quarter Finals onwards, each tie will be cut to just one leg.

Meanwhile, the National Team has a number of things to look forward to. In preparation for next year’s EUROs, UEFA confirmed that the Nations League will take place this autumn.

They will be keeping the original dates for matchdays whilst also adding in two friendly slots in October and November to aid sides as they haven’t met since late 2019. Combined with this, Ukraine will find out their final EUROs opponents in October – as UEFA agreed upon the dates for the Play Offs to be played.

The question remains until then; whether it will be Romania, Belarus, Georgia, Macedonia or Kosovo that joins Ukraine in Group C. Whoever that will be, will be playing across the same original host 12 cities that have been reconfirmed; Whilst the tournament itself will take place on the same ‘days’ as it was expected to this year.

Back to the domestic game and it was a positive week for Dynamo Kyiv. Not only did they come from behind against Zorya to beat them 3-1 and reassert a lead in second, but they also rather routinely swept aside Minaj 2-0 in the Ukrainian Cup Semi Final.

Tsyhankov marked his return from injury with a goal in the league win; whilst Mikkel Duelund was the star man in midweek, grabbing a brace on a rare start under Mykhaylychenko. Vorskla travel to Mariupol in the other Cup Semi Final next Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the Championship Group, Shakhtar placed another finger of the trophy as they narrowly defeated Kolos 1-0. In what was far from a vintage performance from Shakhtar, the tepid return from lockdown continued. Kolos were well organised and determined to end their own streak of losses but Moraes had other ideas as he got the winner.

Desna, then inflicted a second consecutive 5-1 demolition of Oleksandriya, following the side’s humiliation at the hands of Dynamo the weekend before. Oleksandr Filippov seems to be intent on chasing down Moraes for the golden boot as he ended his dry patch with a brace – a run he is hoping will catch the attention of Shevchenko and the National Team. This win combined with Zorya’s loss sets up another tight encounter in the race for the medals this week.

There was finally some good in the Relegation Group, as Karpaty returned to training following a two week self-isolation period following a mass COVID infection amongst their squad and staff. It still remains to be seen, as to when their missed fixtures will be played. However, they will resume with their next closest fixture, against Olimpik. Dnipro-1 sit 7 points clear despite missing last week’s game week due to Karpaty’s issues.

Olimpik surprised once more as they beat the solid Lviv defence 2-0 to leapfrog their opponents and move further away from relegation. Vorskla’s trip to the Azov coast ended in a score draw stalemate with Mariupol – which the most predictable result of the weekend.

THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE

Championship Group = (CG) | Relegation Group = (RG)

FRIDAY

Mariupol v Lviv (15:00 BST / 17:00KYIV) (RG)

This game is another dead rubber in the current circumstances of the Relegation Group. However, these final remaining games may all change meaning once Karpaty play their games in hand. Even still they would need to win a large share of those to trouble any of the sides above them including Lviv.

Lviv have not had the best of returns since the lockdown period was lifted. Their loss to Olimpik saw them drop below their rivals and it looks rather difficult to see any late charge for seventh place. However, as the season ticks down, Lviv will need to pick up the odd point if it is just to keep Karpaty out of reach of safety.

Mariupol have equally been underwhelming but consistent. Their two draws so far and the teams below them being the opposite of the this has helped them remain in eighth but still considerably off the mark compared to Dnipro-1 at the top of the mini table.

This is the lowest in quality side that Mariupol has had in many seasons and it’s difficult to see too much changing as 19/20 comes to an end. The early game of the round looks to favour a narrow home win after Lviv’s recent defeat to the equally woeful Olimpik. 1-0

Vorskla Poltava v Dnipro-1 (17:00 BST / 19:00 KYIV) (RG)

Vorskla have been another consistent side. Having drawn both their games 1-1 since the restart it looks like they too are drifting towards the end of the season, awaiting to start afresh next year.

They’ve certainly improved since the start of the season, with Kane and Yakubu finally coming into their own and Alioune’s arrival and integration in the team boosting their defensive exploits. The issue that Vorskla still lack is in attack; they just don’t create enough and when they on the rare occasion do – they squander their chances with inaccurate finishing.

Dnipro-1 arrive in Poltava full of confidence. They’re on a four win streak stretching back to March and are in prime position to finish in seventh, with room for some dropped points along the way. Their squad is the most in depth of all those in the bottom half of the table and they have goals readily available to be provided across the pitch.

Following their one week break to a postponed game with Karpaty it will be interesting to see if this ruins their rhythm. Vorskla possess a better defensive set up than most of their other opponents, so Dnipro-1’s usually fruitful attack will be put to the test. Even still, they should have enough to edge this one and remain comfortably at the top of the Relegation Group . 0-1

SATURDAY

Shakhtar Donetsk v Oleksandriya (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (CG)

Shakhtar are almost there. Their thirteenth UPL title will be theirs should they pick up any kind of win or if they and Dynamo lose this weekend. An unassailable lead will be accumulated via either of those methods and Shakhtar’s dominance on domestic Ukrainian football will be confirmed once more.

They have been far from their peak form since the season resumed but their abundance of quality has proved that only a couple of chances per game are all that’s needed to get the better of their Championship Group opponents.

It will be interesting to see whether Castro rests a few more players or whether he will reward his first choice XI to get the result that secures them the silverware in his first season in charge.

Oleksandriya have not had the best of fortnights. They’ve lost their last two games by an aggregate score-line of 10-2. By doing so, in the circumstances where you are playing your direct rivals week in, week out, they’ve seemingly ruled themselves out of a medal place push. They now sit six points behind Zorya and Desna who have been far more unswerving in their performances this season.

As is usually the case, Oleksandriya will be hoping to avoid a third successive league defeat at the hands of Shakhtar – albeit that seems highly unlikely especially with the incentive that Shakhtar possesses. Anything below conceding 5 goals will be a result for them. Shakhtar will be Champions at the end of the weekend – it’s difficult to see otherwise. 3-0

SUNDAY

Karpaty Lviv v Olimpik Donetsk (15:00 BST / 17:00 KYIV) (RG)

Karpaty are OUT of quarantine and self-isolation. Two and a half weeks after the first cases were being confirmed – a majority of the squad and coaching staff returned to training this week. However, eight first team players remain away from camp as they remained positive.

A number of Karpaty’s youth squad will also make up the side this weekend as they resume their 19/20 season a month after everyone else. Karpaty sit rock bottom of the table and are odds on for relegation. Eight points adrift with three supposed games in hand looks possible on paper. However, in reality, performances from earlier this season seem to suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, Olimpik have undertaken a sort of mini resurgence in form, beating Lviv and drawing with Mariupol; whilst simultaneously scoring some goals in the process. Roman Sanzhar’s old side will be the favoured team just on the basis that they have been in action since the end of May.

Teixera is in good form at the moment and will be the danger for Karpaty’s defence that will most certainly be lacking match fitness. This will be compounded by the fact that Karpaty have lost a number of their better players in Tim Hall and Marvin Martins during the lockdown period – choosing to end their time at the club prematurely. This game won’t be a memorable one. Olimpik should just shave it. 0-1

Desna Chernihiv v Zorya Luhansk (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (CG)

A different narrative is written each week in the chase for medals. The Game of the Week this time round sees a battle for third; just a week after Zorya were looking like the favourites for silver. However, scenarios change thick and fast when it’s this tight in the table.

Desna go into this tie with confidence, bar a close defeat to Shakhtar in MD 25, they’ve comfortably dismantled the opponents below them in the table (In the first leg of fixtures against them at least). Their leading forward restored his goalscoring form with a brace, helping to brush aside Oleksandriya with ease. The Zorya result combined with their own win gives them another chance at the bronze medal places. 

Zorya have been dealt with a difficult hand of late. Their two defeats out of three games and a less than convincing 1-0 win over Kolos has erased their quiet confidence and put them right back into the dog fight – now battling for a medal altogether when it looked like either bronze or silver would be theirs.

The biggest factor in Zorya’s decline has been the form of Bohdan Lednev – his lack of influence in defeat to Oleksandriya and in the narrow victory over Kolos was marked. His creative absence was also felt v Dynamo as he was suspended. Combined with this, the loss of Rusyn back to Dynamo has also been haunting this side for all of 2020. Kabaev has stepped up with a few goals but he’s unable to carry the full burden of that responsibility on his shoulders.

This fixture is difficult to call. Based on form you would back Desna but Zorya and Skripnyk do have the ability to match Desna – it’s just whether their mental strength will be able to recover from recent capitulations. This one is going to be tight. 0-0

MONDAY

Dynamo Kyiv v Kolos Kovalivka  (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (CG)

Following their Ukrainian Cup Semi Final win over Minaj; the UPL decided that they would give Dynamo some extended rest – similarly as to how they have Vorskla and Mariupol playing on Friday for the extra day of preparation ahead of their own semi-final. Dynamo eased theirs.

Mikkel Duelund who scored two well worked and finished goals will be hoping that he is rewarded with another start in this tie. However, with the return of Tsyhankov it’s difficult to see an XI where all of Tsyhankov, Verbic, Duelund, Tsitaishvili and Buyalskyi all start under the auspices of the less than dynamic Mykhaylychenko.

Nevertheless, this game should be routine for Dynamo especially after they defeated Zorya last week – a rare occasion where the manager’s substitutions were timed to perfection and those players ended up making the difference.

Kolos come into this tie rock bottom of the Championship Group – and it’s little surprise that they almost mathematically can’t finish any higher. They attempted to delay Shakhtar’s title confirmation last weekend but narrowly lost to The Miners once again this season.

They are just sitting tightly now, awaiting the UEL Q spot Play Offs, that they are guaranteed a place in. They may end up being the joker in the pack at some point in the medal run in – taking points off of one of the contenders but it’s difficult to see them doing so versus Dynamo following their opponents recent results. Dynamo win likely. 3-0

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