THE UPL PREVIEW: 20/21

THE UPL 20/21 SEASON IS UPON US 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦

Top flight football RETURNS to Ukraine TODAY for its 30th edition just a month after 19/20 ended!

Following one of the strangest but most exiting seasons in recent memory 20/21 has A LOT to live up to!

ULTIMATE 20/21 UPL PREVIEW

20/21 LEAGUE FORMAT CHANGES:

UPL returns to 14 teams – 1st time since 16/17 season

Return to double round robin style tournament ONLY (each side plays each other home & away)

26 Matchdays – NO Championship/Relegation Group splits (too congested with 14 teams)

20/21 PLACES & PRIZES:

🥇 – 21/22 UCL GS

🥈- 21/22 UCL 3rd Q Round

🏆 – (Cup)21/22 UEL Play Off Round

🥉 – 21/22 UConfL* 3rd Q Round

4️⃣ – 21/22 UConfL* 2nd Q Round

* UEFA Conference League – New Third tier 🇪🇺 competition

If Cup Winner finishes 🥇or🥈then UEL place goes to 🥉

RELEGATION:

Very simple

1️⃣4️⃣ – Relegation to Persha Liha

Just ONE side goes down due to the 21/22 UPL expanding to 16 teams

ONE side ⬇️

THREE Persha Liha sides ⬆️

(Same as this year – just no Relegation group)

THE CLUBS

Shakhtar Donetsk

19/20: 🥇

🏡: NSK Olympiyskyi, Kyiv

Notable Transfers IN / OUT:

Wellington Nem – Released

Mykhaylo Mudryk – Desna (Loan)

Artem Bondarenko – Mariupol (Loan)

Oleh Kudryk – Mariupol (Loan)

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK:

📍Start season just FOUR days after ending 19/20 edition (losing 5-0 to Inter in UEL Semi)

📍Aging stars may suffer Burnout?

📍Little much has changed since last season as a result

📍No key losses thus far

📍Another title charge expected – a level above

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Marcos Antônio – CM

Already being dubbed ‘The New Fred’ – Energetic box to box mid- good range of passing – eye for goal inside & outside of box

Manor Solomon – RM

The Israel wide man is expected to feature more in 20/21 – fast & skilful dribbler + scores

DYNAMO KYIV

19/20:🥈

🏡: NSK Olympiyskyi, Kyiv

Notable Transfers IN / OUT:

Bohdan Lednev – Loan Return

Oleksandr Tymchyk – Loan Return

Vladyslav Supryaha – Loan Return

Serhiy Buletsa – Loan Return

Artem Kravets – Free Agent (IN)

Josip Pivaric – Released

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK:

📍Most anticipated season in years

📍Mircea Lucescu is DK manager

📍Ultra feud w ML & Club owners

📍Returning loanees expected to be given a chance: Lednev, Tymchyk & Supryaha

📍Supryaha to solve DK ST issue?

📍All friendlies BCD – no idea about ML tactics

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Vladyslav Supryaha – ST

15 UPL goals on loan at Dnipro-1 last term – so he looks to be ready to step into ST role @ DK – electric pace & good finisher

Bohdan Lednev – CAM

Playmaker impressed on loan @ Zorya in 19/20 – creative, set piece specialist – 🇺🇦 DB7

ZORYA LUHANSK

19/20: 🥉

🏡: Slavutych Arena, Zaporizhya

NOTABLE TRANSFERS IN / OUT:

Denys Favorov – Desna (IN)

Max Grechkin – Beitar J (IN)

Yehor Nazaryna – R Antwerp (IN)

B. Mykhaylychenko ⏩ Anderlecht

Y. Cheberko ⏩ LASK Linz

B. Lednev ⏩ DK

O. Tymchyk ⏩ DK

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK:

📍Viktor Skripnyk STAYS as manager for now (Was going to Dnipro-1 but deal fell flat)

📍Lost A LOT of key men in break – replacements brought in but not same quality as those who left

📍Squad looks light with lack of goals

📍Juggling UPL & UEL will be hard

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vlad Kocherhin (RM/ CAM)

Post lockdown he was the sides only real saving light – main creative source of attack – scores goals in a side where they come at a premium

Yehor Nazaryna (CM/CAM)

The Lednev replacement – impressed at Karpaty – Step up needed

DESNA CHERNIHIV

19/20: 4️⃣

🏡: Yuri Gagarin Stadium, Chernihiv

Notable Transfers IN/OUT:

Maksymov Dehtaryov – Olimpik (IN)

Mykhayla Mudryk – Shakhtar (IN)

Denys Favorov ⏩ Zorya Luhansk

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK:

📍UEL Q coming up – main priority in early season

📍Lost long serving captain – D Favorov who left in a contract dispute

📍Added impetus on juggling Europa & pushing for medals again

📍Strong squad – great at attacking

📍Filippov to push for that 🇺🇦 call up

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Mykhaylo Mudryk – LW

The Ukrainian Neymar has arrived in Chernihiv – the 433 star is hoping to develop more on the pitch than on IG – pacy, skilful dribbler – lots of flare

Oleksandr Filippov – ST

Finished 2nd in Golden boot race – Will be up for it again!

OLEKSANDRIYA

19/20: 5️⃣

🏡: NSK Nika, Oleksandriya

NOTABLE TRANSFERS:

Maksym Tretyakov – Dunajska Streda

(IN) Signs a permanent deal

K. Dubra – Released

A. Shendrik – Released

A. Zaporozhan – Released

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK:

📍Disappointing end to 19/20 for Sharan’s men – capitulated in Championship Group & lost UEL Play Off

📍No 🇪🇺 to worry about – just focus on the league & cup

📍No major losses – but goalscorers still lacking in the squad

📍Will be a hard def team to face

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Maksym Tretyakov – LW

Great signing to have Tretyakov permanently – contributed many a goal last season – tricky winger with finishing ability

Kyrylo Kovalets – CAM

Midfield Maestro – can pick a pass out from anywhere and also scores a few – in his prime atm

KOLOS KOVALIVKA

19/20: 6️⃣

🏡: Kolos Stadium, Kovalivka

NOTABLE TRANSFERS IN/OUT

A. Ngamba – UR La Louviere (IN)

Y. Novak – Vardar (IN)

O. Kozushko – Free Agent (IN)

M. Kravchenko – Dynamo (IN) LOAN

Y. Yefremov ⏩ FC Suduva

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Representing Kovalivka (pop. 1,500) in Europe – early stages of season focus on Q rounds

📍New stadium to open in Kovalivka – so expectation to show fans performances

📍Might be difficult to replicate 6th place finish – but will give bigger sides a good go

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Yevhen Morozko – LM

Popping up with key performances last season – his deliveries will be important to feed in Lysenko & Bondarenko

Denys Kostyshyn – CAM

Missed most of last season due to injury – but he’s back to full fitness

Fine dribbler & game changer

DNIPRO-1

19/20: 7️⃣

🏡: Dnipro Arena, Dnipro

Notable Transfers IN/OUT

Artem Dovbyk – FC Midtjylland (IN)

Bohdan Sarnavskyi – FC Lviv (IN)

Vladyslav Dubinchak – DK (IN)

Vladyslav Supryaha ⏩ DK

Serhiy Buletsa ⏩ DK

Dmytro Korkishko – Released

Vladyslav Shapoval – Released

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Potentially big season ahead

📍Mykhaylenko has a point to prove after he somehow stays in job following Skripnyk debacle

📍Lost key goals & creators – Supryaha & Buletsa

📍Dovbyk return huge positive

📍Should go & challenge for Europe places this season

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bohdan Sarnavskyi – GK

Great goalkeeper signing who was standout player for lowly FC Lviv in 19/20 – great shot & penalty stopper

Much needed problem area addressed

Oleksiy Khoblenko – ST

No Supryaha means more game time for this man – natural goalscorer

MARIUPOL

19/20: 8️⃣

🏡: V. Boyko Stadium, Mariupol

NOTABLE TRANSFERS IN/OUT

Petro Stasyuk – Free agent (IN)

Artem Bondarenko – SD (IN)

Oleh Kudryk – SD (IN)

Ruslan Fomin ⏩ FC Metal

Serhiy Yavorskyi ⏩ Vorskla

Valery Fedorchuk ⏩ Released

Viktor Kornienko ⏩ Shakhtar

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Oleksandr Babych left after 19/20 close – Ostap Markevych IN

📍Ostap, son of Myron – worked at Villarreal for 4 years

📍Got rid of some of the side’s veterans such as Fomin & club captain Yavorskyi (big loss in def)

📍Shakhtar loanees from 19/20 stay on

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oleksiy Kashchuk – RW

Main man post lockdown scoring a number of key goals – lots of energy down the right – scores goals in a team that lacks them

Artem Bondarenko – CAM

New Shakhtar loanee has been spoken of highly – exciting technical player – big season

OLIMPIK DONETSK

19/20: 9️⃣

🏡: Lobanovksyi Stadium, Kyiv

Notable Transfers IN / OUT

Kirkuk Kirilenko – Karpaty (IN)

Yevhen Neplyakh – Free agent (IN)

Vitaliy Balashov ⏩ Released

Maksym Dehtaryov ⏩ Released

Matar Dieye ⏩ Released

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Everyone’s tip for relegation last season stayed up once again thanks to magic caretaker manager – Ihor Kymovskyi

📍He’s finally been given the role FT and is close to finishing his badges

📍Another season of relegation flirting expected

📍Very much 🤷‍♂️

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Shahab Zahedi – ST

Olimpik’s best player last season – most consistent top performer and had a good stint of goalscoring form at end of season

Maxime Texeira – LW

The side’s main chance creator – gets the odd goal – but he will be carving out opps for Zahedi

VORSKLA POLTAVA

19/20: 🔟

🏡: O. Butovsky Stadium, Poltava

Notable Transfers IN/OUT

Serhiy Yavorskyi – Free agent (IN)

Ivan Pesic – Free agent (IN)

Mykyta Tatarkov – Free agent (IN)

Luizao ⏩ Porto (End of Loan)

Yevhen Martynenko ⏩ Released

Artur ⏩ Keshla

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍First FULL season in charge for Yuri Maksymov – build on last successes

📍Following cup final performance many expect a top half finish from Vorskla this time

📍Good mix of youth & experience – clearing out dead wood over past 2 windows

📍Exciting times

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pape Alioune – CB

6’8 young centre back had his breakthrough season last year – pacey, composed tackler & confident passer

Ibrahim Kane – LM

Playing at full back or LW – Kane will always be flying down the left flank – added goals to his game & now a key man

FC LVIV

19/20: 1️⃣1️⃣

🏡: Stadion Ukraina, Lviv

Notable Transfers IN/OUT

Mikhel Ainsalu – FC Flora (IN)

Bohdan Sarnavskyi ⏩ Dnipro-1

Jonatan Lima ⏩ Released

Anton Bratkov ⏩ Released

Ihor Honchar ⏩ Released

Vladyslav Priymak ⏩ Released

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍It was a long hard season for Lviv but they stayed up thanks to their city rivals Karpaty’s financial issues

📍Certain relegation battle expected

📍Plenty of Brazilians still remain

📍No strengthening after loss of KEY men – Sarnavskyi, Honchar,Tatarkov

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Herman Penkov – GK

The man tasked with replacing Sarnavskyi – will be primary problem area as defensive is so error prone

Renann – ST

Lviv’s saving grace? Renann found some goalscoring form post Covid that Lviv will want to see replicated in 20/21

FC MINAJ

19/20: 🥇(Persha Liha)

🏡: Avanhard Stadium, Uzhorod

Notable Transfers IN/OUT

Denys Kozhanov – Free agent (IN)

Kyrylo Melichenko – SD (IN)

Dmytro Pavlish – SD (IN)

Petro Stasyuk ⏩ Mariupol

Mykhaylo Kopolovets ⏩ Retired

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍The second smallest village team in the UPL (pop. 3,088)

📍Minaj debut in the UPL as Persha Liha champs

📍Should fare well after recent good performances in the cup v UPL sides

📍More signings pending – a Kolos fairytale unlikely – but top half finish is

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Denys Kozhanov – ST

Veteran forward & last season’s Persha Liha top scorer enters the UPL for his swan song years – goals expected

Anatoliy Nuriev – ST

Last season’s club top scorer should take to the UPL with ease – almost ever present – he’ll also get goals

RUKH LVIV

19/20: 🥈

🏡: Arena Lviv, Lviv

Notable Transfers IN/OUT

Valery Fedorchuk – Free agent (IN)

Ilya Ponomarov – Free agent (IN)

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Owner Hyhoriy Kozlovksyi is currently building a state of the art academy

📍Now Rukh are in the UPL – he wants it to stay that way

📍Eclectic squad mix of old & young players – many with UPL experience

📍New-ish Manager Ivan Fedyk just 33 – 🇺🇦 Nagelsmann?

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Yuriy Klymchuk – LW

Quick, jinky winger who impressed in Persha Liha – will be interesting to see if he can step up

Danylo Kondrakov – ST

Alongside Klymchuk coming in from LW, this guy will be the main goalscoring forward – assisted by ST partner Ernest

INHULETS PETROVE

19/20: 🥉 (Persha Liha)

🏡: Zirka Stadium, Kropivnitksyi

Notable Transfers IN / OUT

Mykhaylo Plokhotnyuk – C Odesa 2

Mykyta Zelenskyi – Balkany Zorya

20/21 SEASON OUTLOOK

📍Third smallest club in UPL – town population circa 7,000

📍Eccentric owner

📍Need to stay up so they can debut in new stadium – ETA: April 21

📍18/19 Cup finalists – only ever non UPL side to make it

📍Experienced squad – Shust & Bartulovic return to UPL

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nika Sichinava – ST

Inhulets’ Georgian CF was voted Persha Liha POTS after an unforgettable campaign – 19/20 club top scorer – contributed to 40% of all goals

Maksym Kovalyov – CB

Veteran defender knocking around – main thing to note – Craziest hair in UPL

INTER V SHAKHTAR – 19/20 UEL Semi Final Preview

It’s Shakhtar’s BIGGEST GAME IN FOUR YEARS!

Following last Tuesday’s 4-1 demolition of Basel in Gelsenkirchen, Shakhtar earned the right to take part in their first European semi final since 15/16!

Tonight’s one legged UEL clash v Inter takes place in Düsseldorf

UEL SEMI FINAL

Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk

(20:00🇬🇧22:00🇺🇦)

For the 1st time in this Europa League campaign (Shakhtar entered at the R32) The Miners go into their last 4 tie v Inter as the underdogs

Two met before in 05/06 UCL Q (1-1 A / 0-2 H) Inter Won (3-1 agg)

Shakhtar impressed last week as they blew Basel away

Moraes was a real nuisance

He’s having a prolific season is Shakhtar’s key (only) forward (3 in last 2)

The Brazilian born contingent all shone w Taison, Patrick & Dodo also scoring)

Supplemented by a 🇺🇦 defensive spine

Mykola Matvienko expected to continue his role at LB in place of injured Ismaily

Khocholava back from his red card suspension – Bondar likely to return to bench as a result despite impressing v Basel

Full strength selection available for Luís Castro – Wolfsburg XI expected

Shakhtar have been ruthless since dropping into the competition from the UCL

v Benfica (5-4 agg)
v Wolfsburg (5-2 agg)
v Basel (4-1)

Unbeaten ‘away’

Fluid & speedy attacks played on the break have been primary goal origins

If allowed to control tempo – Inter will have issues

Marcos Antonio has been a revelation this season, especially post lockdown

He’s the key between midfield & attack with Marlos & Taison providing technical support to Moraes – supplementing his goalscoring burden

Alan Patrick dictates the pace & tempo whilst Stepanenko enforces

One Italian journalist was quoted in the build up to this:

‘It has to be said that they have a goalkeeper who could concede 12 goals if Inter took 12 shots’

A rather harsh assessment of veteran Andriy Pyatov who may have occasional lapses but on the whole is a quality GK

Pyatov did win the UEFA Cup back in 09 after all as well

It’s Shakhtar’s first semi final since 15/16 where they faced current SD man Konoplyanka’s Sevilla & lost on agg (3-1 A / 2-2 H)

Hence a 1 legged tie should aide SD & help keep Lukaku & co at bay for less time

Kryvtsov & Khocholava/Bondar’ll need to be at the top of their game to keep Lukaku quiet but fortunately Shakhtar’s physical defensive base should assist them

Stepanenko deploys as a sweeper at times, when required to bolster the defence in instance of full backs going forward

Shakhtar face a very similar task to that of Dnipro back in 14/15

Not playing their matches at ‘home’ stadium (Kyiv / Germany)

They need to defeat Serie A opposition (Napoli / Inter)

Sevilla awaits in the final…

Dnipro made the final on that occasion also as underdogs…

Shakhtar can take lessons from Dnipro and from their own UEFA Cup successes in 09 to spur themselves into the final tonight

Inter are a great side – but aren’t that intimidating for SD who regularly play UCL

The underdog card allows SD to take the pressure off of themselves

If anything the strange neutral venue conditions & empty stadiums are something SD are rather used to after years of internal exile in Ukraine due to Donetsk’s ongoing occupation by Russian forces

Over 1 leg – anything can happen & Shakhtar are more than capable of an upset!

THE PERSHA LIHA IS OVER!

A TRIO OF HISTORIC PROMOTIONS!

The most exciting Persha Liha in years has finally concluded over 12 months after it began!

The 19/20 CHAMPIONS are…

FC MINAJ 🥇

RUKH LVIV finish 🥈(This was confirmed following a UAF disciplinary hearing)

Inhulets come in 🥉

As a result there will be THREE UPL DEBUTANTS going into the 20/21 top flight season!

Inhulets have led the pack since the return from lockdown but the neck and neck race between them and Minaj sees the latter pip them at the line!

Minaj beat fellow promotion chasers Volyn to take gold & consign their opponents to another season in the Persha Liha

Inhulets blew the title and finish runners up after they drew 1-1 with 3rd bottom Balkany!

Balkany remain in Persha Liha for another season whilst MFC Metalurh enter the relegation play offs with Cherkashchyna!

Metalurh face Druha Liha B third placed side, Alliance Lypova Dolyna in their Relegation play off whilst Cherkashchyna take on Veres from Druha Liha A!

Rukh beat Avanhard Kramatorsk 4-0 to gain promotion in STYLE! Their game in hand is expected to be given as a 3-0 victory to them after a UAF hearing!

Ahrobiznes also win their final game 2-0 v Obolon but are destined to finish 4th following the Rukh hearing!

With regards to stadium news ahead of next season Inhulets owner Oleksandr Povoroznyuk’s revealed that his newly promoted side will play their 20/21 home games in nearby Kropyvnitskyi at the Zirka Stadium.

Their new stadium, currently under construction in Petrove is expected to be completed by April 2021.

It’s a real shame that this ‘away end’ will never grace the UPL!

SHAKHTAR V BASEL: 19/20 UEL QF PREVIEW

SHAKHTAR ENTER THE BUSINESS END OF THE EUROPA LEAGUE!

Following their impressive 5-1 aggregate win v Wolfsburg last week, Shakhtar enter the QF’s for the first time since 15/16

Tonight they face Basel as the tournament enters its neutral one leg territory phase in Germany

UEL QUARTER FINAL:

Shakhtar v Basel

(20:00🇬🇧22:00🇺🇦)

Shakhtar go into their first European QF since 15/16 as the slight favourites. They face Basel, who recently finished 3rd in the Swiss League

However they too knocked out Bundesliga opposition – Eintracht last week

Shakhtar’s 2nd leg 3-0 victory on paper – many would say flattered them

The reason for this was due to all 3 goals coming post 89’ – with Moraes grabbing a brace and sub Solomon getting one as well

However, this didn’t detract too much from the actual flow of the game

Both teams were down to 10 men from 70’ onwards – but Shakhtar dominated throughout the game

They had an opening 20 min period where Wolfsburg tried to get back into the tie – but once Shakhtar settled they easily began to dictate the tempo of play – as they did in 19/20 UPL

Moraes impressed – his persistence eventually paid off despite it not looking like it was going to be his day

He needs to be protected from injury as he remains the only experienced CF Shakhtar have

Fortunately they have an abundance of depth in midfield

Konoplyanka, Tete and Solomon can all be called up from the bench – to add attacking prowess against flailing defences

The main active problem area going into this fixture for Castro is in defence

Following Khocholava’s red card – there are a number of options Castro can use!

Potential defensive line ups:

Bolbat or Cipriano – LB / Matvienko – Kryvtsov / Dodô – RB

Matvienko – LB / Bondar – Kryvtsov / Dodô – RB

Dodô – LB / Matvienko – Kryvtsov / Bolbat or Cipriano- RB

Ukraine U20 WC winning captain Bondar took part in the pre match press conference which be of some significance to the XI

Shakhtar have a good record against Basel – won 2 and drawn 1

However, Swiss sides do have a tendency of being bogey teams for Ukrainian clubs – Young Boys defeating Shakhtar & Dynamo most recently

On the whole you would expect the Ukrainian champions to make it into the Semis – where Inter await!

A victory here in normal time will be the aim – to reserve as much energy as possible for Inter who did the deed inside 90’

More UEFA coefficient points on the line for Ukraine!

SHAKHTAR V WOLFSBURG – UEL R16 2ND LEG PREVIEW

THE EUROPA LEAGUE HIATUS IS OVER!

After almost 5 months, Shakhtar Donetsk RESUME their 19/20 European campaign as the last Ukrainian side still standing on the continent!

They face Wolfsburg in the 2nd leg of their UEL Round of 16 tie.

Shakhtar (2) v (1) Wolfsburg

(17:55🇬🇧19:55🇺🇦)

Shakhtar lead on aggregate following a narrow but deserved away win at the Volkswagen Arena back in March.

Marcos Antonio scored the winner that night following Moraes’ opener & Brooks’ equaliser.

Antonio’s goal may prove vital in the away goal stakes too!

Commenting on his & the team’s prep ahead of this game he said:

‘(Today’s) game is completely different (to first leg)- we need to forget about it…The major thing is making it further – Q for UEL QFs’

There are no fresh injury concerns for Shakhtar going into this game. Ismaily had ACL surgery post lockdown and is already out until Dec. Meanwhile Vladyslav Vakula will also be unable to help the team. Other than that – a full strength squad is expected to be selected by Castro!

The match will be taking place in Kyiv – for ease of logistical purposes and for Coronavirus safety reasoning. There’s little point in flying to Kharkiv & risking potential virus contraction especially when you’re playing Behind Closed Doors anyway. Shakhtar are expected to continue to use Kyiv for 20/21 too, following negotiations with Dynamo and the Olympiyskyi.

Shakhtar go into this tie as recently crowned UPL Champions. They won the league with 5 games to spare and as a result played out the season at a lower intensity & at times with weaker squads. Will this end up being detrimental in the side’s preparedness?

Wolfsburg return to competitive action for the first time in a month & a half. The side experienced a very inconsent final run-in following the Covid Bundesliga return. Also they have a number of injury issues – including Kevin Mbabu who tested + for Covid & is in self isolation!

The Wolfsburg team have reportedly shown concern for travelling to Ukraine due to rising Covid numbers ahead of arriving in Kyiv. Similarly in a recent interview , Wolfsburg boss initially thought his side were going to Donetsk to play (highlighting their preparedness)…

Overall – the game is delicately poised – with neither side fully certain of their match fitness despite a couple of warm up friendlies. Shakhtar with the away goal adv need to make it count to set up a UEL QF tie with either Basel or Eintracht

UEFA Coefficient points are riding on it!

Karpaty’s New Logo: A few words

Karpaty, have today revealed that they are going for a complete rebrand!

As their recent official website & social medial posts have revealed- drastic changes are coming as they prepare for life in Ukraine’s 3rd tier!

However ALL is not lost…

Do not be so quick to judge this logo change as something cheap or lazy – it is likely for good purpose…

Karpaty’s part owner Oleh Smaliychuk & Ultras Karpaty have taken part in an official legal hand over ceremony where the latter have become the official rights owners of the historic old badge.

This means it can be safeguarded in the future – especially if the current club goes bust, which very much could be the case.

Ultimately – it is likely that the current Karpaty Lviv will be liquidated (with its new badge) As a result this logo transfer will allow a reborn club / an unofficial successor to use the old badge – now it’s not in ownership of the club!

Smaliychuk is smartly trying to prevent all of the club’s rich history from going into the bin!

THE VILLAGE V THE SEAGULLS – Kolos v Mariupol – UPL UEL Play Off Final 19/20

THE EUROPA LEAGUE PLAY OFF FINAL IS UPON US 🇪🇺🇺🇦

We have come to the official end of the 19/20 Ukrainian (domestic) football season!

Kolos Kovalivka take on Mariupol for a place in the 20/21 UEL 2nd Q round!

The Village takes on The Seagulls at the NSK Olympiyskyi today 🔥

WEDNESDAY

Kolos v Mariupol

(17:30🇬🇧19:30🇺🇦)

UPL debutants Kolos Kovalivka are 90 minutes away from their maiden European campaign – after their very first season in Ukraine’s top flight!

Kovalivka, the Kyiv Oblast village that they hail from, has a population of just 1,500!

Their stadium used to hold just 1,500 people before being renovated this season and is expected to host its first UPL game next season – with a new capacity of 5,000!

Whatever happens it’s been a hugely successfully & unprecedented debut UPL season

One in which they finished in 6th (top half of the table) & recorded some historic results such as narrow losses to SD (4-3/1-0) & beat DK (2-0)

Ruslan Kostyshyn’s men play great football to match

Their dismantling of Dnipro-1 in the semi final by a scoreline of 4-1 showed the quality they possess in their ranks – with a good mix of veteran UPL players & young talent which has a bright future!

They may not be 100% ready for the UEL but they’ll give it a go if they make it

Due to stadium renovations this season, the side has played their home games in North Kyiv’s Obolon Arena and more recently at the Olympiyskyi

The ownership – a successful Agricultural firm (‘Kolos’ means an ear of wheat) bussed in fans from the Kovalivka & surrounding villages for free to see their team play

More fans are expected today as the UPL & UAF continue their post Covid-19 stadium open door experiment – with 25% capacity permitted at the Olympiyskyi – whilst conforming to social distancing rules!

On the other hand, Mariupol go into this game as underdogs!

The side finished in a record 4th place in 18/19 and have some UEL Q round experience to match but have been far from eye catching this season

They finished 8th in the league – but did beat 5th Oleksandriya in the Semi

With rumours of manager Oleksandr Babych potentially being lined up as a Skripnyk replacement at Zorya

It’s difficult to see where this Mariupol side are going – especially with the high # of SD loan players it has

After the past season, hard to see them go far in Europe either!

FROM DESNA TILL DAWN: THE 19/20 SEASON FINALE – UPL MD 32

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.

UEL Play Offs

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)

SUNDAY

Dnipro-1 v Vorskla Poltava (15:00 BST / 17:00 KYIV) (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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRADING PLACES – UPL MD 31

A rare midweek Matchday is upon us! It’s an essential game week for the medal chasers in particular, who have just two more attempts at gaining further points to help boost their European ambitions.

Since the weekend, there hasn’t such a great abundance of news or happenings bar the results of MD 30. 

It’s likely the most exciting finish to a season (title aside) since 2013/14 with three sides remaining in the run in for the elusive silver medal and more importantly a coveted seat at the UCL qualifying round table.

Zorya were first up on Saturday against Kolos. A dominating first half performance and a brace from Kocherhin was enough for Zorya to move clear of Dynamo and Desna early on. The second half was less than comfortable for Zorya, with Kolos showing how they are more than capable of matching their opponents when it comes to chances created and threats – but their finishing ultimately let them down. The Luhansk outfit rounded out the victory at 2-0 seeing them move into second on 57 points 

Fresh from their Ukrainian Cup win, fatigue and misfortune combined to add more woe to Dynamo’s campaign. Two penalties defined the match. Firstly, young defender Syrota, starting his third game in a row for Dynamo and in total ever for the senior team began to struggle with the awkwardness and physicality of Oleksandriya’s forward Bezborodko.

An early yellow card followed by a poor challenge inside the penalty area all inside 20 minutes was enough for Mykhaylychenko to realise he had made a mistake. He instantly subbed him off for Burda as Dynamo went behind as Tretyakov converted from 9 yards.

A poor first half from Dynamo was attempted at being remedied in the second by bringing on Tsyhakov at half time. It instantly injected some energy and precision into the Dynamo right flank. However it wasn’t until Verbic, coming on at the 60 minute mark where things began to shift in Dynamo’s favour.

Two quick fire goals from Dynamo’s current man of the moment saw the Kyiv side almost home and dry – easing the pressure on them in the final matches. However, it wasn’t meant to be as this time it was Shabanov’s turn to give away an unnecessary foul in the box which felled Shastal. Tretyakov stepped up again and converted accordingly. Points shared with a team that had nothing to play for was certainly not in the Dynamo coaching staff’s playbook – nor is anything else for that matter… Dynamo sit on 56 points with Zorya up next!

The final Championship Group game was played simultaneously with the latter. Desna had a big chance to exploit a supposed weakened Shakhtar side missing the likes of Marlos and Moraes and maintain an advantage in the medal race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Shakhtar, once again demonstrated their squad depth, unmatched anywhere else in the league (Man City-esque) and went ahead inside 25 minutes thanks to two goals scored within a minute of each other.

Solomon cut in from the left and caught Past off guard with an unexpected drive at the goal. Before the Israeli teed up Tete to give Shakhtar the lead from two chances which came out of relatively nothing. Desna took little time of their own to peg Shakhtar back – when they scored from a corner – Hitchenko again involved! Then in the second half after some Desna pressure, a Shakhtar counter saw Maycon get a rare goal to all but take the game away from Chernihiv.

Desna responded in quick time once more, with Filippov unleashing an early finessed finish from all of 30 yards out, which Pyatov had not been expecting. Alan Patrick, then capped off an impressive and once again understated performance with a goal of his own to round off the scoring.

Desna did have chances to get back in it, but luckily for Shakhtar, their former forward Pylyp Budkivskyi had a goal gaping as Pyatov ran out of his box to contest a ball. Instead, Budkivskyi slipped, missed the opporutnity before trying an audacious chip from 45 yards out as Pyatov ran back to his goal. Typically it ended on the roof of the net. A 4-2 Shakhtar win left Desna on 45 points – at a natural disadvantage but just two points off of their goal.

It is all delicately poised for the two remaining matchdays now!

Elsewhere, the Relegation Group saw a couple of high scoring games themselves. Vladyslav Supryaha continued his goalscoring form as he notched a brace in Dnipro-1’s comeback win over Lviv were initially 2-0 up. Rennan’s brace helped Lviv to a comfortable advantage before the on loan Dynamo man levelled proceedings with his goals to take him two clear (9) of the total Dynamo Kyiv UPL goals the forwards have scored in 2020 (7). Khoblenko won it for Dnipro-1 as Lviv went to sleep for a second game in a row and were made to pay.

Meanwhile, the other fixture between Mariupol and Olimpik played out to bewildering scenes. Olimpik won which was a shock in itself but they also did it in style. 4-1 was the final score line even with Olimpik starting a weakened eleven.

Mariupol were woeful, including a howler from the keeper Halchyk – aiming to dribble it past an onrushing defender on his goal line. Only to be tackled with ease, have Dehtaryov convert and then have the majority of social media question whether your team threw the game following such suspicious behaviour from the Mariupol first choice keeper.

THE MATCH PREVIEW ZONE

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

WEDNESDAY

Shakhtar Donetsk v Kolos Kovalivka (17:00 BST / 19:00 KYIV) (CG)

Shakhtar have got two final competitive matches to see out before the end of the season. Markedly these two games will also be the last ones they will play before the UEL Round of 16 game versus Wolfsburg in early August. So warming up for that will be a priority.

Following on the trend from last week, Luis Castro has given some of his key men a week’s holiday – permitting Stepanenko, Pyatov and Kryvtsov to have a break following their integral part in the title triumph. 

On the other hand, Marlos, Moraes and Matviyenko all return following their time away albeit it is expected their roles will remain limited to allow the fringe players more time on the pitch.

Mykhaylo Mudryk and U20 World Cup winner Danylo Sikan are expected to pick up some more minutes in the next two fixtures; ahead of potentially breakthrough years for the pair in 20/21. Kolos have been notoriously difficult to beat for Shakhtar this term but they have managed to do so-just each time! Likely to be another one of those. 1-0

Dnipro-1 v Karpaty Lviv (FORFEITED) (RG)

No Karpaty means no fixture fulfilment by them. As such Dnipro-1 get a midweek rest and free three nil victory to their record. 3-0

THURSDAY

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

An absolute dead rubber. Both sides aren’t going anywhere this season but still seem to be putting shifts in on the pitch regardless of how defining their performances actually are at this point of the season. Olimpik surprisingly scored 4 goals against Mariupol in the last round.

Whilst Lviv have scored 2 goals in each of their last two games but have let leads slip in both. This fixture has been a tight one previously this season and it wouldn’t be a shock to see another tie where the two can’t be separated given the uninspiring circumstances. 0-0

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

Some were touting this game as a potential cup final of its own with the final Europa League Play Off tournament spot at stake. Going into this match, five points separate the two teams. Vorskla play their first game since the Cup final loss to Dynamo. Despite their brave and resolute performance in that game, it is fair to predict that the side stood up to the occasion for that silverware event. Whereas this match, returning to the league format may reassert the reasons as to why Vorskla sit ninth in the table at this stage anyway. They may have been reborn under Maksymov but there still remain some problematic areas in the side – none more so than consistent goalscoring and lapses in concentration at the back – preventing them from holding onto leads. 

Mariupol themselves are a strange anomaly. Their 4-1 defeat to a half strength Olimpik calls into question, both match-fixing or just lack of motivation – despite them not being mathematically safe in the final UEL PO place. Nonetheless, a late Europa charge would probably be asking too much too soon from Vorskla after a momentous turn around already this season in staying up after a dismal start and playing some coherent football once again to match. Typical draw – as it panned out last time. 1-1

Desna v Oleksandriya (17:00 BST / 19:00 KYIV) (CG)

Desna may have felt slightly disheartened about their silver medal chances in the immediate aftermath, following their defeat to a weakened Shakhtar on the weekend. However, they are very much still in the race with two games to go. Should Desna defeat Oleksandriya at home, they will remain in a strong position to finish in a medal place with fellow silver medal pursuer Zorya to come in the UPL finale on Sunday. 

Despite the 4-2 score line against Shakhtar, Desna were still able to display snippets as to why they remain (albeit unprecedently) in the hunt. They’re extremely dangerous from set pieces. With physical defenders, who like to cause a nuisance in the opposition’s box, there’s always someone able to get a free header away or finish off a scramble. Hitchenko has been particularly nascent in this area of late. Meanwhile, Filippov has also continued to be the most consistent forward in the side. Whilst he sometimes struggles to finish off the easier chances in games, he seems more comfortable finishing the more difficult ones; such as the early outside the box finish against Shakhtar. 

Although they were eventually overrun by Shakhtar’s more energetic midfield, against the likes of Oleksandriya – who will be aiming to conserve energy ahead of the Europa League Play Off tournament next week – this fixture shouldn’t be too problematic going off how the season has played out so far. Win or bust for Desna. . 2-0

Dynamo Kyiv v Zorya Luhansk (17:00 BST / 19:00 KYIV) (CG)

Another game of Cup Final proportions – this time it’s in the league. This fixture is of great significance to both sides as they meet at the Olympiyskyi on Thursday. A win for either would give them a serious foothold in the silver stakes and brand that victor the favourite to enter the UCL 3rd Q round following Sunday’s conclusion of the 19/20 campaign. 

Dynamo sit a point behind Zorya going into this. The last time the sides met, a month ago, Dynamo came back from a goal down to inflict an impressive 3-1 defeat in Zaporizhya. In that game, it was the substitutes De Pena and Tsyhankov that changed the game for Dynamo and it’s expected after a number of experimental line ups for Dynamo of late due to injuries and resting; the strongest possible starting side will kick off. De Pena is expected to retain his spot on the left, with Tsyhankov coming in on the right from the ouset. Meanwhile Benjamin Verbic, who’s enjoying a rich vein or form playing as a centre forward is anticipated to stay there. 

Syrota will revert back to the bench following his week of numerous baptisms of fire with either the now fit Burda deputising or Popov who is also expected to be back from injury. Unfortunately, for Dynamo fans, it’s difficult to see Mykhaylychenko offering anything other than his trusted midfield three of Sydorchuk, Shepelev and Buyalskyy; just because that’s the way the manager works. A shame as Shaparenko impressed against Oleksandriya.

As for Zorya, their on loan Dynamo men has different rules applied. Lednev has not featured in any of the previous  three fixtures versus his parent club and as such it’s expected that that will continue. Meanwhile, Tymchyk who has started on the bench previously against his main club, is expected to start in a defensive capacity of some sort. Without Hromov in the team, Zorya looked a lot more fluid in attack – Perovic and Kabaev were linking well as a strike partnership – although they too need to improve their finishing if they are to emulate what Kabaev had with Rusyn before the New Year. Vladlen Yurchenko should not be understated either, he’s probably been the most consistent player in the Zorya side – enjoying his playmaker role as one of the more senior heads  (26) in the youthful set up. 

Dynamo certainly have a more bountiful squad which includes players that possess greater game changing quality than that of Zorya and as such when it’s needed most – Dynamo could pull out the win. It will all depend on how disciplined Zorya are and whether their midfield and defence can unpick the usually large holes in Dynamo’s midfield and pounce on the lack of match sharpness in Dynamo’s defenders to gain those coveted 3 points and move one step closer to that debut UCL appearance.

Too close to call but will certainly be an open and entertaining game at one point or another. 2-2

THE END for Karpaty Lviv – UPL MD 30

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