The end of another historic UPL club is nigh according to numerous sources in Ukraine. Karpaty Lviv, winners of the 1969 Soviet Cup, are on the verge of being another casualty in the list of teams in Ukraine that have fallen due to disregard and financial mismanagement.

Earlier this week, news broke that new Karpaty Co-owner Oleh Smaliychuk has spent the past few weeks attempting to reach an agreement with Karpaty’s other owner – Ihor Kolomoyskyi…

The talks were meant to regard the paying of a $5 million debt that the club needs to clear should they want to receive a UPL license for next season. The deadline for the license renewal was Tuesday 30th June. No agreement was reached, as Karpaty claim Kolomoyskyi never showed up to talks and has shown no intent to rectify the situation.

Furthermore, Karpaty missed one of their UPL games in hand versus Mariupol in midweek and have confirmed that they will not fulfil yet another fixture against Mariupol this weekend – as such all but confirming their forfeiting of the league and it seems that their withdrawal from the league is imminent as a result.

Certain figures have attempted to aid Karpaty in the meantime such as Rukh owner Hryhoriy Kozlovskyi offering to pay the away game fees for the remainder of the season, but these handouts were rejected by Karpaty. The club believes these offers are just to increase the clout of certain individuals rather than helping Karpaty in the long run.

“We are able to afford to play out our away fixtures, herein does not lie the problem. Rather it is the $5 million debt we need to pay off and as such if we are unable to, what is the point of us wasting more resource playing out the season, if we won’t be given a license for the next campaign anyway!”

As such it is expected that the club may either fold entirely and turn into a phoenix club a la Metalist 1925 or become incorporated into Rukh Lviv, with the club brand and history living on with a Rukh rebrand… However these are all currently rumours and as such no decisions have been made regarding the future of the club at this stage. Either way, it doesn’t look bright!

Back to the actual football side of things on the pitch. The medal race is back to a neck and neck scenario!

Desna beat Dynamo 3-2 in an electric thriller last Sunday. Dynamo once again showing how underwhelming the current squad is and how the coaching staff are none the wiser in how to improve it – despite largely obvious changes that they refuse to make.

Hitchenko’s added time header sunk the hearts of the large travelling Dynamo contingent, who inspired by Zorya fans the week prior – used ingenious ways to see out the game!

Tsyhankov proved once again how pivotal he is to the side with a brace; whilst the question as to why Carlos De Pena doesn’t start was once again brought into the spotlight following another impressive performance from him after coming on as a half time substitute.

For the neutral it makes all the more for a hugely entertaining end to the 19/20 campaign.

Shakhtar lifted the UPL
trophy post match

Also in with the medal shout is Zorya who drew 0-0 with already Champions Shakhtar. If there’s any indication as to whether players will be rested by Luis Castro for the remainder of the season as a result, it didn’t look like it. The likes of Tete and Konoplyanka did start but come full time, Shakhtar’s strongest XI were all out on the pitch. Not a good omen for Dynamo who face The Miners this weekend.

Elsewhere in the championship group, Kolos got their first win following a string of seven straight defeats defeating Oleksandriya in assertive fashion and not changing much for their own situation but more or less confining their opponents to a fifth place finish.

In the Relegation Group; Dnipro-1 recorded a shock loss to their rivals for seventh place – Mariupol who beat them 3-0. Olimpik and Vorskla played out a subdued 0-0 draw whilst the Lviv Derby and what may turn out to be Karpaty’s last ever UPL match (following the developments this week) ended 1-1 with a spirited second half comeback display by Karpaty who were down to 10 men for its entirety!

Yaroslav Deda grabbed what looks to be their final goal in the top flight just minutes after coming off the bench.

Zorya Londonsk also took part in a brand new podcast focused on Ukrainian football this week! Much of the above was discussed along with other COVID & football related topics. So if you have yet to listen check it out via the links!

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/shoot-the-defence/id633108165?mt=2

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0IhypURW1JiiI7rGU354aV?si=O6V5LKuu

Audioboom: https://audioboom.com/posts/7619661-ukrfut24-podcast-falling-dynamo-bankrupt-karpaty-and-covid-19 

THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE

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

FRIDAY

Lviv v Vorskla Poltava (17:00 BST / 19:00 KYIV) (RG)

Vorskla get given 24 hours extra rest ahead of the Ukrainian cup final next Wednesday as they take on Lviv in the Friday fixture. This one is also for the history books as Ternopil City Stadium hosts its UPL game since it’s 2012 renovation. Lviv are playing in the neighbouring oblast for the remainder of the season due to a high level of COVID diagnoses in their hometown.

Lviv began life under new Georgian coach Gio Tsitsadze in relatively underwhelming fashion. They drew versus Karpaty; taking a lead against their rivals via a very fortunate own goal and then crumbled in the second half to a side with 10 men for the entirety of it. Lviv are lucky that Karpaty are in such a state, otherwise they could have seriously been threatened with relegation themselves due to the amount of games in hand their rivals had to play. 

Vorskla struggled to find the net versus Olimpik last time out but were once again resolute defensively. They were without their key defender Alioune but managed to keep their less than average opponents at bay. With primary focus on the biggest game in the past decade for club likely to be prioritised over a more or less meaningless league tie, some changes and experimentation should be expected from Maksymov. One eye will certainly be on Wednesday. 

If any sides can play out a goalless draw it’s these two in the circumstances. A bore draw expected. 0-0

SATURDAY

Mariupol v Karpaty Lviv (CANCELLED)(RG)

Alexa play That’s Life by Frank Sinatra… Karpaty have confirmed that they will not complete the second of their two anticipated fixtures versus Mariupol this week. Having missed the midweek game in hand tie due to the current situation at the club – the same reason rings true just a few days later. It’s a more than likely scenario that Karpaty have already played their last UPL game this season… . P-P

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

Another Clasichne! But it’s not exactly one that’s being eagerly anticipated on this occassion. Despite Dynamo’s tedious position in second, the fact that Shakhtar have already won the league makes the competition against the two sides in this game a bit of a no contest.

Shakhtar are less than motivated to bring the game to their opponents since the restart. They showed this in the ‘re-opener’ reverse match against Dynamo at the end of May and still ended up winning 3-1 on the day. Just a class above their opponents at the moment. Compounded by the way Dynamo played versus Desna, optimism is rather low in the Kyiv camp.

After making some changes to his XI versus Zorya last weekend, Luis Castro is expected to play a strong enough side against the arch rivals, in preparation for their European round of 16 tie in August. This Clasico fixture is the last match up that will come close (but not really) to the quality The Miners will face in the Europa League. If Shakhtar take all the spoils in this one, they will sit TWENTY points clear in top spot. A gap that if remains come the end of the season will see Shakhtar grab a new UPL record bettering Dynamo’s 1999/00 margin of 18…

Dynamo will no doubt want to prevent that from happening but more pressingly want to ensure that their hegemony in second remains in place until the season’s close. Following their Desna defeat, it remains difficult to ascertain whether Dynamo will be able to muster anything against their one true enemy club. Mykhaylychenko experimentation against fellow medal chasers backfired last week, although a string of substitutions did seem to restore Kyiv’s dominance until the very end. Can Mykhaylychenko muster the courage to start the likes of 2019 POTY Carlos De Pena or June’s POTM contender Mikkel Duelund after eye catching performances of late? The answer to that is a high possibility ‘no’.

More of the same expected – although the absence of Shepelev due to suspension does give Dynamo room to push Buyalskyi deeper into midfield and allow Duelund in at number 10. The issue then remains as to whether Verbic, who ended up playing the entire second half against Desna as the sole forward, can cut it up there. Albeit, all the other members of Dynamo’s striker club are unable to function correctly under Dynamo’s playing style. Something which is as baffling to the spectators and worryingly for the players too. The main issue being that nobody knows what it is or what it is trying to achieve.

The result won’t be so severe this time round, compared to a few weeks ago. However, in true Shakhtar fashion, they’ll have just enough to nick it and ensure the medal races remain wide open. 0-1

SUNDAY

Desna Chernihiv v Kolos Kovalivka (15:00 BST / 17:00 KYIV) (CG)

Desna have a perfect opportunity this weekend to take advantage of the potential chaos that may ensue around them in the table. After their warranted but shock win versus Dynamo last weekend, Desna play yet another game at home. Something tells us there won’t be any away fans in cherry pickers this matchday, with the type of support that Kolos have. With that victory, Desna have ensured that they remain ‘amongst it’ when it comes to the medal race.

Ryabokon – UPL’s MOTM for June

They’re just a point behind Zorya and three behind Dynamo, who they should leapfrog, due to an enhanced H2H record, should the levelling of points occur. It really is too close to call when it comes to the finishing predictions, with all three chasers’ results. However as Desna are up against bottom Championship Group side Kolos – who saw their first win, last matchday, following seven straight defeats.

With the way Desna have been performing in recent weeks and throughout the season, it would be disappointing to see them drop off in the final run in but nothing seems to suggest they will do. The pressure doesn’t seem to be getting to them. 2-0

Olimpik Donetsk v Dnipro-1  (17:30 BST / 19:30 KYIV) (RG)

Olimpik seem to be drifting toward the end of the season in uninspired fashion. They’ve picked up some good results in recent games but very far from inspiring.

Meanwhile Dnipro-1 have been on a slight decline and have let their lead at the top of the Relegation Group slip to just one point. Mariupol are breathing down their necks, so they can’t afford to drop too many points. Although if Dynamo Kyiv win the Cup next week, it could increase the UEL Play off catchment area from fifth to eighth place. Dnipro-1 do need a comeback and have got the better quality in their ranks. As such they should pick up the three points in this one. 0-2

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

Zorya continue their attempts at pushing for a record finish as they take on the most out of form side in the top half of the table. Oleksandriya have been in freefall since June despite surprisingly beating Zorya in the post Covid restart opener. Zorya got a well earned point versus Shakhtar last Saturday but will need to improve in taking their goalscoring opportunities with the need to win games essential between now and the season’s crescendo.

Fortunately, they come up against a down and out Oleksandriya who lost their last four consecutive games following their last minute victory over Zorya in May.

There have even been rumours that Volodymyr Sharan, Oleksandriya’s most successful manager is on the verge of being replaced by former Olimpik Donetsk head coach, Vicente Gomez – who didn’t show much during his debut managerial stint in the UPL.

That is likely to come at a head following the close of the campaign – which couldn’t come soon enough for the visitors. They’re now nine points behind Desna in fourth and as a result can now prepare for the UEL Play Offs which will follow the conclusion of the league fixtures. 

With Zorya’s need for a victory more essential than that of their opponents, they will be more motivated in this one. It won’t be easy, but Zorya should just scrape through. 1-0

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