Olimpik Donetsk vs PAOK – Thursday 17:30 BT/18:30 CET – Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv.
Olimpik Donetsk will be the outsiders going into their first ever Europa League match against the Greek team PAOK. IN some ways it is a miracle that Olimpik get to go on this European adventure at all.
Founded in 2001 Olimpik were Donetsk’s third club behind giants Shakhtar Donetsk and Metalurh Donetsk. The war in Eastern Ukraine and the forced exile from Donetsk meant that all three Donetsk-based clubs were facing severe financial strain. Metalurh, in fact, would eventually collapse declaring bankruptcy in 2015 leaving Donetsk with just two clubs.
In reality, however, neither Shakhtar, who are now playing in Kharkiv nor Olimpik can play home games in Donetsk. Olimpik are forced to play their home games in Kyiv where they call Dynamo Kyiv’s old stadium, the Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium, their home.
Despite the financial hardships that come with playing every game away from home Olimpik have somewhat blossomed on the field. Promoted in 2014 the club managed to finish eighth in 2015, ninth in 2016 and fourth in 2017, which qualified them for the third round of Europa League qualifying.
Qualification for Europe is a significant achievement for the club. But at the same time, it is unlikely that they will advance further than the third round of qualifying. PAOK’s transfer value of €49.8 million dwarves Olimpik’s transfer value of €6.95 million and while money is not everything Olimpik’s inexperience will be hard to compensate against a strong PAOK side.
Olimpik Donetsk vs PAOK – Player to look out for:
Moha #11 – Olimpik Donetsk
Moha stands somewhat out in a team that can be best defined through the collective. The 23-year-old Moroccan-Spanish native is the only real foreigner in Olimpik Donetsk’s squad—goalkeeper Zauri Makharadze holds both Ukrainian and Georgian citizenship. Signed from the Spanish second division club Gimnàstic de Tarragona in January Moha managed just one goal and one assist in 13 Ukrainian Premier League games. But this season he has already shown that he is slowly adapting to football in Ukraine recording two assists in the first two games of the Ukrainian Premier League.
Robert Mak #29 – PAOK
Robert Mak is back with PAOK after one season in Russia. The 26-year-old Slovakian winger spent one season with Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia but failed to make a lasting impression and when Zenit parted with head coach Mircea Lucescu Mak became one of the first players considered surplus material by new head coach Roberto Mancini. As a result, Mak was happy to take the offer from PAOK and return to PAOK on loan. Now back in Greece Mak hopes to resurrect a career that has somewhat stalled in Russia.
Olimpik Donetsk vs PAOK – Match Stats
- Olimpik Donetsk finished fourth in the Ukrainian Premier League this season, which was the best result in the club’s history.
- Olimpik have never before played in any UEFA competition.
- As a result, this is the first competitive encounter between PAOK and Olimpik.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Olimpik Donetsk vs PAOK 0-2
Makharadze – Kravchenko, Lukyanchuk, Nemchaninov, Shabanov – Bogdanov, Khomutov, Shestakov, Tsymbalyuk – Bilenky, Moha
Manager: Roman Sanzhar
Rey – Leveque, Crespo, Varela, Konstantinidis – Cañas, Cimirot – Henrique, Biseswar, Mak – Prijović
Manager: Aleksandar Stanojevic
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.