Those who cannot wait to watch the first all-Ukrainian tie in UEFA club competition history will get a sneak preview this evening when title contenders FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Metalist Kharkiv meet in the Premier League, UEFA reported.
`Right direction` The game between the top two in Ukraine will be the first of three meetings in a fortnight after impressive European triumphs last week ensured the pair will face each other in the UEFA Cup last 16. With FC Shakhtar Donetsk also progressing, it represents an unprecedented high for the country. "The level of the Ukrainian Premier League is rising year after year," said Dynamo coach Yuri Semin. "The success of Dynamo, Metalist and Shakhtar in Europe proves that we`re making progress and moving in the right direction."
Dynamo are probably further along than anyone, with their UEFA Champions League victories against FC Porto and Fenerbahçe SK underlining their progress. Despite losing only twice, the Bilo-Syni (White-Blues) failed to make the knockout stages but they are in strong shape in the domestic arena and can go nine points clear of their nearest challengers with victory in Kharkov. "Dynamo are six points ahead of us," said Myron Markevich, who has guided Metalist to successive third-place finishes. "It`ll be hard to close the gap, but if we stop thinking about it and just focus on winning every game, then we`ll control our own destiny."
Should they win their first Premier League match since the winter break it would certainly further those ambitions. They certainly look to be in form too, having beaten UC Sampdoria 2-0 last time out to guarantee progress in Europe. Jajá and Serhiy Valyayev scored in that game and were also on target when the side beat Dynamo 2-1 in August, while January signing Denys Oliynyk will be on hand to provide inside information on his former club, even if a clause in his transfer will prevent him from featuring. "The gods of football must have seen how eager I was to play against Dynamo," lamented the 21-year-old. "At least they have given me a chance in the UEFA Cup."
Another graduate of Dynamo`s academy, Valentyn Sliusar, will be available and he emphasised the role of Markevich in his side`s rise. "Metalist are indebted to him," he said. "It was Markevich who created this team, united the players and gave us a winning mentality." They will need it against a Dynamo side whose pre-season billing as favourites has only been enhanced by the signing of Brazilian Guilherme, while defender Vitaliy Mandzyuk has been recalled from loan at FC Arsenal Kyiv. Add in that Ayila Yussuf and Miloš Ninković are back from injury and Dynamo look an imposing force; not that Metalist will be intimidated.