Who is Olimpik Donetsk: Profiling PAOK’s Europa League Opponents
AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis reports on one of this season’s least-known sides in the Europa League, PAOK’s opponents, Olimpik Donetsk.
PAOK will take on an unknown quantity this week as they open up their Europa League campaign with a two-legged tie against FC Olimpik Donetsk. The Ukrainian side are set to make their first-ever European appearance against PAOK. This is quite impressive since the Donetsk club were only founded in 2001. In that time period, Olimpik have risen through the ranks of Ukrainian football. After spending seven years in the 3rd division, the club finally cracked the 2nd division in the 2011/12 season and won that title back in 2014/15 to earn a place in the Ukrainian Premier League.
A 4th-placed finish last season saw the team qualify for European competition for the first time. The squad is almost predominantly made up of Ukrainian players with two exceptions, Moroccan Moha Rharsalla and Brazilian Guttiner Tenorio. This is a tight and organized group who don’t give much away. However, it remains to be seen how they will be able to score in Europe as even last season they managed barely a goal per game. Certainly, PAOK will have to watch out for Olimpik’s counter-attacking potential as they will almost certainly cede possession to the Greek side.
Stadium: Sports Complex Olimpik (Capacity 3,000)
Titles: 1 Ukrainian 2nd Division Title
Coach: Roman Sanzhar
The 38-year-old is synonymous with most of Olimpik’s history. Sanzhar joined the club as a player in 2004 and has been with the club in some capacity ever since. The local boy came good in the case of Sanzhar as he was born in Donetsk and has been a part of the club’s biggest achievements both as a coach and a player. He assumed head coaching duties after a short stint as assistant in 2013. In the four years since, Sanzhar has done extremely well not only to guide his side through stability in the Premier League, but also exceeding expectations with a Europa League berth.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For Olimpik, it begins and ends with their star Moha Rharsalla. The Moroccan winger is the team’s go-to player and his creativity on the flanks is key to Olimpik’s success. This is not a one-man team as the strength is certainly in the collective, but Rharsalla is irreplaceable for Olimpik.
In midfield, Andriy Bohdanov runs the show with the former a fine addition to the team last season. At the back, the veteran defender duo of Dmytro Nyemchaninov and Vitaliy Fedoriv keep things compact.
LAST SEASON RECAP
Sanzhar’s bunch pulled off a fine feat by finishing in 4th place both in the regular season of the 2016/17 Ukrainian Premier League and the play-offs like Championship Round that followed. That was good enough to clinch a Europa League place. This was the club’s highest-ever league finish after placing 8th and 9th in the two previous seasons.
THIS YEAR IN EUROPE
Olimpik’s first time out this season in Europe will be against PAOK at home on Thursday.
PRIOR HISTORY VERSUS GREEK CLUBS
Olimpik has no history against Greek clubs as this is their first ever season in Europe.