Europa League Preview Part II – Dinamo Minsk, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, and Lokomotiv Moscow

Europa League Preview Part II – Dinamo Minsk, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, and Lokomotiv Moscow

By Vadim Furmanov, and Manuel Veth –

Group E: Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)

Dinamo Minsk is only Belarus' second team to reach the group stage of European football

Dinamo Minsk is only Belarus’ second team to reach the group stage of European football


Traktor Stadium (16,500)

Note: Dinamo Minsk will be playing its home matches in Borisov as no stadium in Minsk currently qualifies for Europa League matches.

About the Club:

During the time of the Soviet Union Dinamo Minsk was the only club from Belarus to have ever won the Soviet Vysshaia Liga (Soviet Top League) title, which Dinamo accomplished in 1982. The league title won in 1982 was the club’s first, and also meant that Dinamo became the first club from Belarus that got to participate in a UEFA competition representing the Soviet Union in the European Cup (the frontrunner of the UEFA Champions League). The 1980s were the club’s most successful period in the Soviet Union as Dinamo managed to qualify for European football five times in a row—from 1983 to 1988.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 Dinamo appeared to be destined to dominate Belarusian football. Indeed the club managed seven titles from 1992 to 2004, but for the past nine years, however, Dinamo has had to take a backseat to BATE Borisov, which has won the Belarusian championship nine times in a row, and is currently leading the league once again.

But under the ownership of Yury Chyzh, widely regarded Belarus’ second richest man, Dinamo has been able to catch up to BATE in recent years, and is currently considered the closest title challenger to the Borisov based club. Dinamo Minsk is also only the second club, after BATE Borisov, from Belarus to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League, which further help Dinamo in their quest to dethrone BATE Borisov. The club has also caught up in other departments, thanks to Chyzh’s investments. Dinamo Minsk—according to the squad has an overall transfer value of €11.25 million—are now considered the second most valuable team in Belarus after BATE. Dinamo Minsk is now on due course to turn the Belarusian Vysheyshaya Liga from a monopoly to a duopoly.

Know your Oligarch:

Yury Chyzh owns the Triple Corporation that is well known in Belarus for its soft drinks. He also has extensive business interests in construction as well as in Russian oil imports, reprocessing and exports. In 2012 Chyzh’s close connections to Lukashenko led to the placement of a travel ban on him by the European Union. The ban was later vetoed by Slovenia as a Slovenian firm was involved with Chyzh’s construction company that was working on the Kempinski Hotel in Minsk. Chyzh also has other business interests in the EU that includes biofuel production in Lithuania and Latvia. Chyzh is rumoured to be worth $1 billion.


Dinamo Minsk are drawn into Group E along with Viktoria Plzeň (Czech Republic), Rapid Wien (Austria), and Villarreal CF (Spain). Villarreal, or the Yellow Submarines as they are often called, will be the toughest opponent in this group as the club has clearly recovered from their 2012-13 spell in the Segunda División, and are once again a force to be reckoned with. Plzeň’s squad has seen several season in the Champions League, and the club should be well suited to compete for a qualification spot with Rapid Wien, a club that looked strong in the playoffs against Shakhtar Donetsk but may succumb to inexperience in the group stage of the Europa League.

What to expect:

Dinamo Minsk will be hard pressed to qualify for the second round of the Europa League, and will most likely finish the group last, as all three opponents may poof to strong for the Belarusians. On the other hand Dinamo turned some heads in the qualifiers, where they beat FC Zürich, and Austria’s champion Red Bull Salzburg, and perhaps Dinamo can surprise once again in the group stage.

You should be reading:

Dinamo Minsk – Victories For Alexander Lukashenko

Football in Belarus – Ultras Versus the Authoritarian Regime

Group G: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)

Carlos Bacca ended Dnipro's dream of winning the Europa League last season

Dnipro reached the Europa League Final last season, but Sevilla’s Carlos Bacca ended Dnipro’s dream of winning the title



Dnipro Arena (Capacity 31,003)

About the Club:

Dnipro were the second most successful club in the Soviet Era, winning the Soviet Top League on two occasions in the 1980s. Since independence Dnipro often been among the top teams – they have finished as runners up twice and twice made the final of the Ukrainian Cup – but have yet to win a trophy.

On the European stage they reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup in both of their appearances in the competition during the 1980s. But their greatest success came last season, when they knocked out Ajax and Napoli on their way to the final, where they lost 3-2 to Sevilla in one the more memorable Europa League finals.

Developments this summer, however, have not been encouraging. They lost three of their key players. Star winger Yevhen Konoplyanka finally moved to Sevilla after a protracted transfer saga. Midfielder Jaba Kankava and striker Nikola Kalinic also left the club. A lack of activity in the transfer market caused manager Myron Markevych to submit his resignation, which was rejected by owner Kolomoyskyi. Since then Dnipro have brought in a number of Latin American players on free transfers, but whether the new signings will make a significant impact remains to be seen.

Know your oligarch:

Ihor Kolomoyskyi is one of the most influential and controversial figures in Ukraine. Forbes estimates his wealth at $1.25 billion, making him the third richest man in the country. Kolomyskyi controls the biggest bank in Ukraine and has assets in the airline, mining, and petrochemical industries, among others.

He was appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region following the revolution, but his conflicts with the government led to his dismissal in March of 2015. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most powerful men in the country, though investment in Dnipro does not seem to be a priority at the moment.


The favorites in Dnipro’s group appear to be Lazio, who finished third in the Serie A last season. But following their meek elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen and a shocking 4-0 loss to Chievo in the second round of fixtures in Italy, they appear to be in crisis early on and could be there for the taking when Dnipro face them on September 17th.

Rosenborg, who finished second in the Norwegian league last season, currently sit top of the table with a comfortable eight point league over their closest challengers. Dnipro and Saint-Etienne, currently fifth in Ligue Une after four rounds, were also in the same group last season. They drew 0-0 in France and Dnipro won 1-0 in Ukraine.

What to expect: 

First of all, what not to expect: another stunning run to the final. The summer departures are a big blow—especially Konoplyanka—and the replacements are unproven and have massive shoes to fill. The striker situation is worrying—Kalinic is gone, Roman Zozulya is still injured, and Yevhen Seleznyov had to leave the national team because of a knee injury.

Dnipro will also play in front of an empty stadium in their first match as a result of fans storming the field following their historic victory over Napoli last season. But on the bright side, after playing their Europa League matches in Kyiv last season, Dnipro will be back in front of their home fans – at least for their second two matches. The group is tough, but not impossible, and Markevych is an excellent manager. Failing to advance past the group stage will be a massive disappointment.

You should be reading:

Dnipropetrovsk – An Aberdeen Away Day

Europa League Final – Broken Dreams For Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk

Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk – From Boom To Bust


Group H: Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)

Lokomotiv Moscow was founded as part of the rail workers union

Lokomotiv Moscow was founded as part of the Ministry of Transportation, and the club has maintained its link to the Russian Railways until today



Lokomotiv Stadium (28,800)

About the Club:

Founded in 1936 as part of the Ministry of Transportation Lokomotiv Moscow was often considered the weakest link of all the Moscow based clubs. Indeed the club won only two trophies in the time of the Soviet Union the Russian Cup in 1936, and in 1957.

It was not until the early 2000s that the club became a real force in Russian football. Much of this had to do with the club’s new stadium as Lokomotiv, moved into a brand new arena in 2002, a move which symbolised Russian Railways RZhD’s motivation to build a new super club that would dominate Russian football.

The alluring Lokomotiv Arena brought about an increase in Lokomotiv’s popularity in the city. Since the opening of the new arena, however, attendances at Lokomotiv home games increased from 4,480 in 2001 to around 15,000 in 2010.

The new stadium also brought titles as Lokomotiv won the Russian Premier League in 2002, and 2004. The club has also won six Russian cups since the fall of the Soviet Union including a cup win in 2015, which qualified Lokomotiv for the Europa League. Despite the cup win, however, Lokomotiv, which thanks to RZhD has one of the largest budgets in Russia, has disappointed in recent years as the club has failed to add another Russian championship since 2004. The squad includes several talented legionnaires (as foreign players are called in Russia) most noteworthy are the Brazilian midfielder Maicon, and the Moroccan winger Mbark Boussoufa, and the Croatian defender and team captain Vedran Ćorluka.

Know your Oligarch:

Russian clubs often have to be understood as social-marketing projects by their mother companies, and in the case of Lokomotiv RZhD that football as a marketing tool would be successful as long as money is invested into both players and infrastructure. RZhD are owned by the Russian Ministry of Transport, and similar to Zenit and Gazprom Lokomotiv can be understood as a government subsidiary.


Lokomotiv were drawn into Group H along with Beşiktaş Istanbul (Turkey), KF Skënderbeu Korçë (Albania), and Sporting Lisbon (Portugal). Sporting will be considered favourites to win Group H with both Lokomotiv, and Beşiktaş challenging the Portuguese for the group win. Ultimately Skënderbeu will be cannon fodder for the three other clubs in the group, but a slip up in Albania from any of the group favourites could proof to be the decisive difference between qualifying for the next round, or a spring without European football.

What to expect:

On paper Lokomotiv should finish this group at least second, and make it to the second round of the Europa League. But the club has been able to disappoint in the past as the teams shaky record in the Russian Premier League in recent years has shown. Yet there is hope Lokomotiv has started this season strong, and perhaps can also surprise in Europe, and once out of a group stage Lokomotiv should advance at least to the round of the 16.

You should be reading:

Overpriced and Overvalued?: Russian Players and the Curse of the Quota

A New House is Not a Home: The Continued Demise of Spartak Moscow

Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.

Manuel Veth is a free lance journalists  and PhD candidate at King’s College London. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. His thesis is entitled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be defended in November. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.