While they may not be a well-known team in Australia, Ukrainian outfit FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk are likely to provide a challenging assignment for John van’t Schip’s Melbourne City FC in the Club’s second mid-season friendly.
The Hyundai A-League side clashes with the Ukrainian Premier League on Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi (kick-off 7pm local, 2am AEDT) at New York University’s Abu Dhabi Campus.
Nicknamed the “Warriors of Light", Dnipro boasts a number of Ukranian internationals, including the team’s number 10, Yevhen Konoplyanka who is currently linked with English Premier League, Ligue 1 and Serie A clubs.
“I have never have crossed them before, but I know Ukrainian football is at a high level. Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kiev and Dnipro are strong Ukrainian sides playing European football currently.
“They finished second [in the Ukrainian Premier League] last season, and they are doing well this season as well.
“It’s a good team, they have eight or nine international players. Ukraine is a well-respected national side, so they will be a tough test for our side.
“They have a few dangerous players up front; their left winger [Konoplyanka] is in talks with big clubs in Europe at the moment and they have Nikola Kalinic who is a Croatian striker who has played in the [English] Premier League.
“They also have a talented midfield and score a lot of goals from set plays so it’s a good team and the players have a very high pedigree.”
Despite the calibre of the opposition, van’t Schip said it was ideal to play against a side who would challenge his team during this important mid-season break.
“For us it is a great test,” van’t Schip said. “We have to show that we are compact and fit and of course with friendly matches, the result is not always the most important thing, but we try and get a good result against a strong opponent
“It’s going to be a very interesting game and hopefully we can build some confidence heading into our match against Western Sydney [on February 1].”
Melbourne City FC succumbed 2-0 against Abu Dhabi-based outfit Al Jazira last Sunday in the Club’s first friendly of its tour and van’t Schip said he would rotate the team that started against the UAE Gulf League Club.
“With the intense training we have had here over the last week we will have some players not playing 90 minutes,” van’t Schip said.
“Some will play 45-60 minutes and then other players will get a chance.”