This weekend in the 23rd round of the Ukrainian Premier League, Shakhtar Donetsk visit Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Derby (Sunday 7th April). For those new to the Klasichne or Classico, a brief introduction can be found here.
This season in the Ukrainian Premier League, Shakhtar have run away at the top and are currently 16 points clear of Dynamo with 8 games remaining. The only blotch on Shakhtar’s record is a defeat against Arsenal Kyiv; otherwise they have won every other game. In terms of a title decider, this game is insignificant as it is just a matter of time until Shakhtar are officially crowned champions.
This however, does not mean that this particular Ukrainian Derby is insignificant. There are numerous reasons why this fixture is still catching the imagination and why it is still important.
Going on current league form and results in recent derbies, it is easy to suggest that Shakhtar will be clear favourites. Over the last five meetings between the sides, Shakhtar have won the last 4 with Dynamo managing only one draw. This includes 2 crushing victories for Shakhtar in the autumn, most significantly beating Dynamo 4:1 at the Donbas Arena in the Ukrainian Cup, which signalled the end of Yuriy Syomin’s reign. This is also Dynamo’s biggest defeat in domestic football since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Dynamo will be after revenge for these defeats and will want to show their rivals that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
This change of regime for Dynamo could also prove a change in fortune for Dynamo. Despite not setting the world alight with their league form, Dynamo have steadily gained some positive results and now find themselves in 2nd place in the league. This will be Oleh Blokhin’s first game in charge of Dynamo in a Ukrainian Derby and he will be looking to make a positive start and get one over the wily old fox, Mircea Lucescu.
This game is not only significant for Dynamo in terms of pride; they are in a serious battle for 2nd place in the championship and a place in the Champions League. Dynamo cannot afford any slip ups in the league because Metalist and Dnipro are waiting to overtake them. This gives the game more significance for Dynamo as they know a defeat will be a massive blow for their hopes.
This does not mean that the game isn’t important for Shakhtar. Despite losing to Arsenal, Shakhtar can still beat Dynamo’s Ukrainian Premier League point’s record (84pts set in 1999/00) and this will serve as motivation for The Miners.
Another factor which adds to the excitement of this fixture is that it will be the first Ukrainian Derby at the renovated NSC Olympiyskyi. The Kyivan locals have bought into the excitement and the game is expected to be a sell-out with around 70,000 tickets sold. This will be a Ukrainian Premier League record attendance.
The Ukrainian Derby is the most anticipated league fixture in the country and this upcoming game is no exception. Expect passion, from players, staff and fans. Expect excitement. Except controversy. This is the Ukrainian Derby and it is not to be missed.
The game kicks off at 19.30 Kyiv time on Sunday 7th April 2013. The game is live on 2+2 in Ukraine.
By Peter Chymera, Vice-President of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89