It’s official! The UPL is left with eleven teams for the remainder of the season!

The sole team that was likely to be relegated anyway, has been removed from the division after failing to fulfil two fixtures in a row and not giving valid reasons for those unfulfillments. The UAF announced earlier this week that Karpaty Lviv’s time in the UPL is prematurely over! However, it has also confirmed that the side is not completely dead just yet. They have not had their professional status removed and as such are still able to apply for a Persha Liha licence. Whether that is acted upon, we will have to wait and see. 

In general, it has been a rather crazy week in Ukrainian football – even for its own high standards for unusual behaviour! FC Metal, a new phoenix club claiming to be the true successor to Metalist Kharkiv has emerged with hopes of obtaining professional status next season. This project has been masterminded by former Metalist sporting director Krasnikov and would cast doubts on the legitimacy of current Persha Liha promotion contenders Metalist 1925.

Elsewhere in the new football club creation factory, Champion.ua were reporting that a new team is being formed that will be called… ZORYA-1972 !!! The side will represent Luhansk but be based in Kyiv. It is expected they too will register for pro status next week. They have similar hopes of entering the Druha Liha for the 20/21 season. The General Director will become Dynamo Kyiv Vice President – Oleksiy Semenenko with finances being provided by a successful Ukrainian businessman. Does this spell trouble for the original Zorya Luhansk; with a rival side aiming to steal its identity?

Aside from the strange activities off the pitch, Kharkiv hosted one of the greatest Ukrainian Cup Finals of all time in midweek. A fiercely contested tie between Dynamo and Vorskla was end to end for the majority of the 120 minutes – with one of the highest quality penalty shoot outs you may ever witness eventually awarding a victor! The game ended 1-1 at Full Time. Ruslan Stepanyuk gave Vorskla a shock lead inside 10 minutes before the constantly threatening Verbic equalised on 37’.

From then on, nothing else was able to separate the teams, with Vorskla goalkeeper Dmytro Riznyk pulling out a Man of the Match performance with a number of stunning saves. The real standout moment came from the outfield players in the shoot-out. Top corner finishes were more common than not in this high octane match decider. Shabanov eventually won it for Dynamo are Bayenko skied his shot so high it probably went into orbit. Dynamo won 8-7 on penalties following 18 taken in total.

It’s Dynamo’s first major piece of silverware for four years, their twelfth Ukrainian Cup in total, but they can’t afford to rest on this achievement just yet with their fight for silver still very much in the balance in the league!

THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE

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

SATURDAY

Kolos Kovalivka v Zorya Luhansk (15:00 BST / 17:00 KYIV) (CG)

A must win game for Zorya as they face bottom of the top six side Kolos. With games against both of their medal rivals coming up in the final two fixtures of the season next week, ensuring they have are toe to toe with their rivals going into that or even at an advantage will boost their chances of a historic finish in second.

The unprecedented 2-2 draw to Oleksandriya last week dented their chances of an earlier advantage going into these final games. Anything but a victory in Obolon in this match up could well lead to extra pressure in the coming games. The question is whether Skripnyk and his young men have the bottle – if they don’t, they won’t be deserving of a place in the UCL Qualifiers anyway. Away win expected. 0-2

Karpaty Lviv v Vorskla Poltava (FORFEITED) (RG)

With Karpaty now officially omitted from the UPL – Vorskla get some extra rest following their Cup Final efforts and a nice 3-0 win, as will all the other sides that were meant to play Karpaty until the end of the season. 0-3

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

Dnipro-1 are guaranteed a UEL Play Off place. Vorskla are unable to catch them with the amount of points left on offer. The side will now aim to maintain seventh place and claim the last ever Trophy of Prestige before the league reverts back to a full table for the entirety of next season. It’s still uncertain whether Dnipro-1 will actually be able to play in Europe should they qualify, as they were only established in 2017 and UEFA rules state that a club must exist for at least 5 years to be able to participate. 

However, that bridge can be crossed should the eventuality arise. Can Supryaha add a late flurry of goals to his tally of 10 so far and potentially challenge those ahead of him? With the quality of opposition coming up and the lack of motivation facing those sides, the young Dynamo loanee would hope so. Comfortable win for the hosts. 2-0

SUNDAY

Mariupol v Olimpik Donetsk (15:00 BST17:00 KYIV) (RG)

As it stands, it is looking like Mariupol are on course for a UEL Play Off place where they will battle it out against the three sides above them for Ukraine’s final Qualifying spot for Europe’s second tier competition. They come up against Olimpik Donetsk who mathematically can’t finish their opponents unless Mariupol lost all their remaining games and Olimpik won all of theirs. Both seem highly unlikely circumstances. As such, Mariupol are favourites here to pick up another win as they prepare for that play off mini tournament. 2-0

Desna v Shakhtar Donetsk  (17:30 BST19:30 KYIV) (CG)

No Marlos, Moraes or Matviyenko for Shakhtar in this game. Castro has sent them on holiday with 3 games to go to have some extra rest ahead of regrouping for the Europa League in early August. Although Castro did promise that his line ups against all three medal chasers would be of similar strength, without those three key men (regardless of whether they started or came off the bench) will be a gain for Desna on paper at least. Desna don’t look to be slowing down as the season comes to an end.

They’ve kept up this intensity for so long now that it would be a disservice to themselves should they step of the accelerator now. Against a unmotivated and second string Shakhtar side – you really shouldn’t rule it out. Some huge cup final type games coming up in the final two fixtures should Desna get the win here. If they don’t, it’s going to be highly likely that they finish in fourth. 2-1

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

Dynamo may very well still be on cloud 9 following their Cup win in midweek but they seriously need to discard those emotions and focus on the task at hand if they want to finish second still. They will be hoping Shakhtar do them a favour and take points off their medal rivals Desna whilst they themselves will need to defeat Oleksandriya.

The latter is the easy bit – having beaten their opponents 5-1 a few weeks ago and with Oleksandriya guaranteed fifth place in the table – anything but a win would be a catastrophic failure. If Verbic is in the same type of mood that he was in versus Vorskla and starts up front again, then the Oleksandriya back line be facing some serious problems. Expected away win in this one. 0-3

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