A season that has taken almost an entire 12 months to complete has finally arrived at its conclusion. This Sunday, UPL sides will walk out for what will be the last time during the full 19/20 Favbet Liha campaign.
The majority of final positionings have already been confirmed. Shakhtar were crowned Champions almost 4 weeks ago. Karpaty were removed from the league over a fortnight ago – with the club being the only side to be relegated from Ukraine’s top tier. Oleksandriya, Kolos, Dnipro-1 and Mariupol are all confirmed to prolong their season’s by an extra week at least. All four sides will enter a Europa League Play Off – two semi-finals and a final (one leg each) to see who claims the final UEL Q place for Ukraine in next season’s competition.
Aside from that mini tournament, the semi -finals of which will take place next week, positions second to fourth have not been mathematically defined. Dynamo take on Kolos at the Obolon Arena aiming to solidify their UCL Qualifying round status by not losing to their opponents. Meanwhile Zorya is still able to finish second, but only if Dynamo loses and they themselves win over Desna. However, it’s largely out of their own hands are losing to Dynamo in midweek.
Zorya knew that a victory versus Dynamo on Thursday would have given them the ultimate advantage in the race for silver. However, it seemed the pressure in the situation got to them and the overall inferior individual quality the Luhansk squad possesses compared to that of Dynamo Kyiv.
Despite taking an early lead inside 3 minutes, thanks to Hromov, Viktor Skripnyk’s men were undone three times in the following 34 minutes to put the tie to bed already inside the first half.
Viktor Tsyhakov’s brace either side of a precision finish from Sydorchuk, ensured Dynamo’s season on paper at least didn’t look as bad as it had actually panned out in reality. Granted, the job isn’t done yet but expectations are that Dynamo will get the minimum point required against Kolos to secure that silver.
Elsewhere in Chernihiv, Desna were also hoping that their own challenge for the Champions League would be able to continue until the final day. However, just like Zorya, it seemed the occasion got to them. At the time when composure and experience matters most, Desna lacked the mental strength to pull themselves through.
To make matters worse, they lost to an experimental Oleksandriya side, who had nothing to play for, although Volodymyr Sharan did say the motivations for themselves were: ‘Getting revenge for the 5-1 humiliation earlier on in the campaign.’ However, Desna do still have an equal chance of finishing with a medal, to cap of an unprecedented season. They just need to defeat Zorya in Zaporizhya in the final fixture. It is all in their hands.
In the other echelons of the Championship Group, Shakhtar played an experimental youth squad against Kolos. Vladyslav Vakula made his debut with a start, over 7 months since returning from loan with Mariupol. Mykhaylo Mudryk was also presented with his first start.
Vakula impressed, but being played at right back just seems a waste for such a talented attacking player. Meanwhile Mudryk was rather quiet, but early days yet for him in his career. Goals from Cipriano and Moraes sealed the win. Shakhtar are already on course for a record points gap tally between themselves and second and should they win against Oleksandriya on the final day – then they will match Dynamo Kyiv’s 99/00 record for wins (27) and points (84).
The Relegation Zone was not a subdued affair despite their being not too much to play for.
Vorskla began midweek with a slim chance of overtaking their opponents Mariupol in the final UEL Play off spot. They sat five points behind with both sides having two games to go. However, in an already decided decision, Yuri Maksymov sent all his senior players on holiday a week early following their Cup exploits. As such, Vorskla’s youngsters gave Mariupol a good go! However, it wasn’t enough as Mariupol came from behind to win 2-1 and confirm their Play Off spot with Dnipro-1 whose match with Karpaty was logically cancelled.
In the other match, Olimpik travelled to Lviv for a dead rubber. It didn’t stop the Donetsk side from turning on the gas though. Lviv took an early lead through Renann before Olimpik struck FIVE! Dehtaryov got another brace and Iranian forward Zahedi picked up the match ball with a hattrick. NINE goals scored by Olimpik in their two final games. Where was this drive and finishing ability earlier on in the season?
THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE
Championship Group = (CG) | Relegation Group = (RG)
Dnipro-1 return to action after they missed the midweek action due to Karpaty’s omission. They will use this game in preparation for next weekend’s UEL Play Off semi-final against Kolos. With this in mind, it’s uncertain whether Mykhailenko will use his strongest side or similarly give a few of his youngsters a run out.
Vorskla, who have already permitted the majority of their senior squad to go on holiday ahead of 20/21 preseason will be fielding more youngsters as they have done in the previous two UPL rounds. Albeit, these academy players are far from push overs and have given two strong showings – narrowly losing to Mariupol in midweek and drawing against Lviv.
Despite this, Dnipro-1 should they play a handful of their first teamers, then they should have enough to defeat the Ukrainian Cup runners up . 2-0
Olimpik Donetsk v Karpaty Lviv (FORFEITED) (RG)
No Karpaty, means no fixture fulfilment by them. As such Olimpik’s season ended in midweek with a 5-1 win and they get an early release to their summer vacations. 3-0
There’s nothing to play for, for either side in this game. Lviv are confirmed to finish eleventh whilst Mariupol are guaranteed eighth! Mariupol have been on the road since Wednesday – travelling from Mariupol to Lviv by bus via Poltava and Kyiv. The journey may tire them out. Lviv have looked quite good under their new manager but have been unable to hold onto leads. Maybe the fatigue factor of their opponents can play in their favour in this one. 2-1
Oleksandriya have been in buoyant mood in recent weeks. Maybe the rumours of coach Sharan being replaced due to poor results this term was the catalyst to show how much the manager means to the players and how invaluable he has been in their rise over recent seasons.
They played out another impressive performance against Desna with what was an experimental side to start off with. It’s likely they’ll line up with something similar against Shakhtar in what is an actual glorified friendly for both sides. Also, Sharan will have the UEL Play Offs on his mind which take place next week – with Oleksandriya taking on Mariupol in the semi-final of that.
On the other hand, Shakhtar are also expected to play a heavily changed side – albeit not too dissimilar from the youth experiment that started against Kolos on Wednesday. More senior minutes for the likes of Mudryk and Sikan is to be expected with Alan Patrick and Taison given some time off ahead of the UEL Round of 16 in August. Shakhtar have the likes of Marlos and Moraes included in the squad, so should it be required they do have the quality it takes to get all three points and set / equal a number of UPL records for their storming season. 0-1
A very simple task lies ahead for Dynamo. Do not lose and silver is yours! They come up against a side they have beaten on all three previous occasions this season and with Tsyhankov in his post lockdown form – it’s difficult to see this game ending any other way than an away win – especially with what’s on the line.
Kolos has given brave displays against Shakhtar this season and were unlucky to lose to Dynamo a month ago – but when push comes to shove – Dynamo’s quality should see them through with ease in this one, even without key man Verbic – who is unlikely to feature due to an ongoing injury. 0-2
This is the Bronze crunch match! There are a number of outcomes that are still possible for both sides.
Zorya win – Should Luhansk claim a victory they will confirm Bronze.
They will finish second should this be combined with a Dynamo loss to Kolos.
Draw – Bronze confirmed for Zorya.
Desna win – Desna take bronze and a UEL GS place – whilst Zorya take the qualifying route and no medal place finish.
After the midweek anti-climax of both sides’ performances, this fixture is slightly less exciting than it could have been just a few short days ago. Both teams will be looking to put those displays behind them and press on for a medal finish. Whilst it may seem like a scant consolation after the seasons they have had, a place in next season’s UEL will be an unforgettable experience nonetheless. It would be more of a historic feat for Desna, having already made the record books with their highest ever finish regardless of what happens in this game.
Zorya, just lack that killer edge at converting chances. The lack of an out and out forward has had an impact on this and should they have kept Rusyn for the whole season, this may have ended in a differing picture. After the underwhelming week following so much promise, it’s only right for this game to not live up to expectations. A hard fought draw . 1-1