Since the formation of an independent Premier League in the Ukraine in 1992, the championship has been dominated by two clubs: Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk. After an initial surprise when the former were beaten to the first title by Tavria Simferopol, Dynamo won the next nine crowns, becoming the force in Ukrainian football and making a mark in Europe too.
It was not until the turn of the century that Ukraine found its derby, though, when Shakhtar broke Dynamo’s stranglehold on the league trophy. The rivals have shared the honours ever since, and fixtures between the two have been established as the biggest matches in the domestic game.
Founded in 1927 at a time when football in Ukraine was growing in popularity, Dynamo have a long-standing tradition of success and represented the country’s challenge to clubs from Moscow in the early years of the Soviet Top League. Although they failed to win it until 1961, they went on to amass a record 13 titles.
Shakhtar were formed nine years after Dynamo and did not experience similar success, being considered a cup team due to their failure to win a championship. The Miners did not become a serious threat to the White-Blues' hegemony until 1996, when the club was taken over by Rinat Akhmetov, whose financial backing and searing ambition transformed the Donetsk club. Their academy and training base now rival those of Dynamo, while they have the power to attract foreign stars to improve their squad.
The beginning of this rivalry can be traced to 2002, when Shakhtar secured their first league trophy and Dynamo’s legendary manager Valeriy Lobanovskyi – who played for both clubs - died. Since then, each team has won four championships and been runners-up four times.
Facts and figures
Dynamo have been Ukrainian champions on 13 occasions, while Shakhtar have won the division five times. The team from Kyiv also pip their rivals in the Ukrainian Cup, which they have won nine times compared to six. Dynamo have four Super Cup victories to Shakhtar’s three.
Both teams have enjoyed success in European competition: Dynamo won the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup, and subsequently the UEFA Super Cup, in 1975, and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League three times, most recently in 1999. Shakhtar won the UEFA Cup in 2009, becoming only the second Ukrainian team, after Dynamo, to win a continental prize. It also meant they were the last team to win the UEFA Cup before the competition was changed and renamed the UEFA Europa League.
Since the Ukrainian Premier League was formed, the team have played each other 52 times in all competitions, with Dynamo winning 23, Shakhtar 17, and 12 resulting in draws. Dynamo have only won twice in the last ten meetings, however, while one side has kept a clean sheet in each of the last five fixtures between the two.
Tales of past derbies
The first fixture between the two was in 1938, which Dynamo won 2-0, and the trend continued for many years, with the Blue-Whites enjoying a healthy record over the Miners. The most important meeting between Dynamo and Shakhtar came in the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 2009. The teams faced off over two legs for a place in the final against Werder Bremen in Istanbul. Shakhtar took the advantage in the first leg, scoring an away goal in a 1-1 draw, and finished the job in the second leg, winning 2-1. They went on to lift the trophy after beating the German side 2-1 in the final.
Their most recent game was in May 2010 in a league match which Shakhtar won 1-0, a significant victory given that it was the penultimate game of the season and clinched them the title.
Both sides continue to dominate the Premier League and no other team has finished in the top two since 1996. Shakhtar won last season’s championship, ahead of Dynamo by six points, and have made a successful start to their Champions League campaign, winning both matches without conceding. Dynamo were beaten by Ajax in the Champions League qualifying stages so are participating in the Europa League.
Ahead of Sunday’s meeting between the two, the Premier League table has a familiar look, with Shakhtar in first place, two points above Dynamo. As the title has changed hands between the two in each of the last four seasons, Dynamo fans will hope this can again be their year and would relish a victory at the home of their rivals.