Ostersunds vs Zorya by Sweem
It is the biggest game in the history for Ostersund, who will play for their opportunity to make a giant leap towards group stage progression when they host Zorya Luhansk from Ukraine at Jamtkraft Arena in an incredibly cold environment.
The weather forecast suggests -4 degrees and possibility of snow, but the pitch will not be in danger as it is artificial. However, Zorya are no strangers to cold conditions as they are from Ukraine and typically thrive in tough weather. Both teams have performed beyond expectations and this is a surprising early group final.
Ostersund remains undefeated at home in European competition which includes the journey all the way from the qualification stages. The undefeated row now reads Galatasaray, Fola Esch, PAOK, Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao. These encounters have generated 4 wins and 1 draw but they have one thing in common, which is the fact that Ostersund have been dominant in all of the matches due to their extreme comfort of playing at home. It would be an understatement to say that they are the most home dependant side, perhaps in the entire Europa League.
The squad situation in Ostersund looks brighter than before, since players have good form and confidence beyond usual. Important forward Saman Ghoddos was recently selected to join Iranian national team, and scored. The powerful winger Ken Sema was part of the Swedish squad who knocked out Italy from World Cup participation, and flexible defender Denis Widgren has been mentioned as a possible name for both Norway and Sweden.
Through the individual success, the key players will do their utmost to perform to high standards in order to be selected for the coming World Cup tournament, while also gaining a significant financial boost themselves. It is important to keep in mind that Ostersund is not a rich club, and the salaries are barely more than a regular job, with the exception of a few. Therefore, success in Europa League is a massive priority as it provides life changing amounts for some.
Zorya began the Europa League group by hosting Ostersund at home, but lost 0-2 in Ukraine. Their form improved since then, and after consecutive victories against Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin they now find themselves in excellent progression chances. In the domestic league they are doing alright with a 6th place out of 12 teams - in other words very mid table. However with 23 goals conceded in 16 games they currently sit on one of the worst defensive records in Ukraine, since no team have conceded more goals than Zorya apart from Karpaty.
On the other hand they have the third best offense which suggests that they have been involved in high scoring matches. The Zorya team consist of mainly domestic Ukrainian players with the exception of Brazilian strikers, such as 22 year old Iury who have played 90 minutes in three Europa League matches. Otherwise it is the short 173 cm right wing Oleksandr Karavaev who is a key player and the one who should make things happen offensively. He has experience from Shakhtar Donetsk & Fenerbache despite being only 25 years old and used to be on bigger scenes.
Coach Yuri Vernydub is a veteran in the team since 2011 and over 200 matches in charge. He is very demanding and not afraid to give his players some heat when performances are below expectations.
In this group final, Ostersund will have no secrets due to the fact that they always approach games the same way, meaning a lot of possession and having an idea behind ever single pass. Zorya have proven to play well when being the underdog and sitting back. However the deciding factor here is not only the artificial pitch where Ostersund are specialists, but also the fact that Zorya comes into this game with a questionable defensive record, and they will be way more under pressure than usual in this match. Sooner or later, I see Ostersund breaking through and making a statement. I would be very surprised if Zorya ends Ostersunds long undefeated streak with this much importance of the table.