Slovakia vs Ukraine – Friday, November 16, 19:45 GMT/20:45 CET – Štadión Antona Malatinského, Trnava, Slovakia
Originally, favoured to win the group, Slovakia now find themselves in a dire situation. Their third match in Group 1 will be a potential relegation match. Within the course of the calendar year, the Slovakian Football Federation has gone through three managerial changes.
Ján Kozak, who managed the national team from July 2013 – October 2018, was sacked following his side’s loss against Ukraine. Štefan Tarkovič was then hired as his replacement, but the subsequent defeat to the Czech Republic saw him lose his job as well. Now, with relegation to League C on the line, Pavel Hapal must help his side earn a victory on matchday 3.
Throughout their first two UEFA Nations League fixtures, the Sokolihave scored only one goal. They have also conceded three goals, thus putting themselves in a difficult situation as they hold a negative goal differential. For a team that has the likes of Marek Hamšík, Adam Nemec and Róbert Mak, this simply is not good enough.
Therefore, with this information in mind, the objective for Slovakia is straightforward. To avoid relegation, the Slovaks must defeat Ukraine. Otherwise, should they fail to claim a victory at home, it seems they will be dumped into the UEFA Nations League’s lower-tier League C.
Ukraine, on the other hand, can afford to cruise in this match. Having already secured promotion to the competition’s League A, the Ukrainians can now relax in their final competitive fixture in 2018. Over the span of 2018, Zbirnaremain undefeated. The Yellow-Blues have earned five wins, and three draws this year. They have scored 12 goals and conceded five in eight matches. Simply put, this has been a very good year for manager Andriy Shevchenko and his side.
A victory on Friday would help boost their UEFA coefficient in the forthcoming EURO 2020 qualification group draw. There is some reassurance, however. Winning League B – Group 1 means the Ukrainians have qualified for at least the second round of qualifications for EURO 2020. In other words, they are guaranteed to feature in the EURO 2020 playoffs. Therefore, the Ukrainians are coasting into the upcoming competition.
This is no time for complacency, however. Their recent performances against Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy have shown that Zbirna will need to face a higher calibre of opponents. Should they allow arrogance to creep into their play, they will surely be outmatched during the EURO 2020 qualification period.
Slovakia vs Ukraine – Players to Watch:
Róbert Mak #20 – Slovakia (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Slovakia have only scored one goal in their two UEFA Nations League matches. This is simply not good enough. If they are to avoid relegation, their midfield must perform. Róbert Mak tormented Ukraine during the EURO 2016 qualification period, and he must channel this energy to help his side avoid relegation.
Mykyta Burda #5 – Ukraine (Dynamo Kyiv)
Following his first call-up to the national team, Mykyta Burda has impressed. The young centre back has helped his side earn two clean sheets in four international matches. Moreover, he has forced himself into the first team at the expense of veteran Yaroslav Rakitskiy. With his ability on the ball and strong defensive composure, it is no wonder Ukraine gained promotion to the UEFA Nations League’s prestigious League A.
Slovakia vs Ukraine – Match Statistics:
- Ukraine lead the head to head, with three wins, three draws and one loss.
- The offensive talent is rather even. Over their past seven meetings, Slovakia has scored six goals to Ukraine’s eight.
- Slovakia must win this match to avoid being relegated to the UEFA Nations League’s League C.
- Ukraine were one of the competition’s first teams to gain promotion to a higher league.
- Slovakia’s Stanislav Lobotka has a knock and may not feature. Lubomír Šatka continues to hold an injury and will not compete in the match.
- Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko has an Achilles injury and did not travel with the team.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Slovakia vs Ukraine – 1-1
Slovakia vs Ukraine – Projected Lineups:
Dúbravka – Pekarík, Škriniar, Škrtel, Hubočan – Kucka, Hamšík – Rusnák, Duba, Mak – Nemec
Manager: Pavel Hapal
Pyatov – Karavayev, Burda, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko – Stepanenko – Tsyhankov, Zinchenko, Malinovskiy, Konoplyanka – Yaremchuk
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Mark Temnycky reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTem33