Dynamo vs Shakhtar – Friday 7 pm CET Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex – Kyiv.
On Friday, Shakhtar Donetsk have their first match in which it is possible that they may win their tenth Ukrainian championship and their first since 2014. Furthermore, Shakhtar could do it in the stadium of their fiercest rivals, Dynamo Kyiv, in what is the most important game on the Ukrainian match calendar.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Dynamo Kyiv (15 titles), and Shakhtar Donetsk (nine titles) have won all but one Ukrainian championship—Tavriya Simferopol won the inaugural Ukrainian championship in 1992. In fact, the rivalry between the two biggest clubs in the country has often gone beyond sport.
Donetsk, which is located in the very east of the country, has always represented the coal miners and the Russian-speaking minority in the country. Kyiv, meanwhile, was always seen as the centre of politics and power and, therefore, is a thorn in the side of the coal miners and steelworkers of the industrialized Donbass.
The Maidan Revolution, and the conflict between Kyiv and the Russian-supported rebels in the Donbass have, however, complicated the relationship between the two clubs. Shakhtar have been exiled from the Donbass and until this winter were playing their home games in Lviv. Lviv, located in the very west of Ukraine has long been considered the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism, and the club from the Donbass has found it difficult to establish itself in the city.
Because of this problem, Shakhtar moved their base to Kharkiv which, like the Donbass, is mostly Russian-speaking. Kharkiv has become the home of many people who have fled the fighting in the Donbass, and the bankruptcy of Metalist Kharkiv means that Shakhtar no longer have to compete with a local club. As a result, Shakhtar have been received much better in Kharkiv then they were in Lviv.
The exile from the Donbass, however, has not changed the relationship to Kyiv. In fact, it added another interesting twist to the story. During their first two seasons in exile, Shakhtar’s management were adamant that they, and not Kyiv, were the best team in the country, despite the fact that Dynamo won the last two championships.
Former head coach, Mircea Lucescu, was often found blaming Shakhtar’s difficult circumstances for their lack of success in domestic football. Kyiv, where the football union is located, was often blamed by the Romanian head coach for referee decisions. Meanwhile, Shakhtar’s president, Sergei Palkin, regularly addressed the belief that Shakhtar were given a hard time due to the fact that the club was representing the Donbass.
In the end, a frustrated Mircea Lucescu left the club for Russia—where he seems to have replaced Kyiv with Moscow when it comes to criticising referees. Shakhtar replaced the Romanian with the young and dynamic Portuguese coach, Paulo Fonseca, who has turned Shakhtar into an efficient machine.
With the Portuguese coach in charge, Shakhtar were looking to finish the season unbeaten until they were finally defeated by Chornomorets Odesa two weeks ago. The defeat aside, Fonseca has guided Shakhtar back to the top of the table, and, with an eleven point cushion and only five games to go, could win the title on Friday.
Dynamo Kyiv in the meantime have found themselves in a bit of a rebuild mode this season. In fact recent financial difficulties have meant that the club had to rely mostly on young players from the academy in order to build on the successes achieved in the last two years. Failure in the league, and in the Champions League have also meant that head coach Serhiy Rebrov was often at the end of harsh criticism.
With Dynamo likely to lose two or three more key players in the summer, Rebrov has already begun to bloody new talent, and has, in fact, manage to stabilize the club in the second half of the season. While it is unlikely that Dynamo can still challenge Shakhtar for the title this season, Dynamo will do their utmost to avoid the ultimate embarrassment of Shakhtar celebrating their tenth championship in Dynamo’s home stadium.
Dynamo vs Shakhtar – Players to look out for:
Andriy Yarmolenko #10 – Dynamo Kyiv
Andriy Yarmolenko was once considered the hottest prospect to come out of Ukrainian football since Andriy Shevchenko first burst onto the scene in the late 1990s. A quick and powerful winger, Yarmolenko was linked with moves to AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern München, Everton, and several other clubs. But, instead of leaving Dynamo, Yarmolenko signed a new contract last year, which makes it unlikely that the winger will ever leave his native country. While his sense of duty towards Dynamo could be applauded, the case must be made that staying in Ukraine has likely hurt his career. Yarmolenko, in fact, has failed to make that all-important step from being a top talented winger to becoming an international superstar.
Taison #28 – Shakhtar
Taison’s contract will expire in January 2018, and there is no doubt that the Brazilian winger will have countless suitors for his signature. It could indeed be the last major contract that the 29-year-old will sign in his career, and many believe that this contract could be in the financially strong Chinese Super League. Until then, however, Taison remains one of Shakhtar’s biggest stars. The left- winger combines speed and direct play with a powerful finish. He scored nine goals and nine assists in 33 games this season, and will be the key player in Shakhtar’s match against Dynamo on Friday.
Dynamo vs Shakhtar – Match Stats
- Shakhtar Donetsk won the last encounter in the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex 3:4
- Shakhtar could win the title win an away win in Kyiv on Friday.
- Serhiy Rebrov has a losing record against Shakhtar (W4 D2 L5).
Prediction: Dynamo vs Shakhtar 2-2
Koval – Kádár, Pantić, Vida, Morozyuk – Sydorchuck, Shepelev – Antunes, Garmash, Yarmolenko – Biesiedin
Coach: Serhiy Rebrov
Pyatov – Ismaily, Rakitsky, Kucher, Srna – Stepanenko – Taison, Kovalenko, Bernard, Marlos – Ferreyra
Coach: Paulo Fonseca