Two football teams exiled from cities in war-battered eastern Ukraine play each other on Sunday in the safer western part of the country with the league title at stake.
The showdown between Ukrainian Premier League leaders Shakhtar Donetsk and second-place Dnipro-1 at Arena Lviv can be decisive in a football season that is finishing on schedule in remarkable circumstances.
The stadium was one of four in Ukraine, including Shakhtar’s home in Donetsk, secure enough in 2012 from Russian aggression to co-host that year’s European Championships with Poland.
Shakhtar leads by five points and needs just a draw this weekend to secure the title ahead of the last scheduled round on June 4.
“I think it will maybe be one of our best matches ever,” Ukrainian league chief executive Ievgen Dykyi told The Associated Press this week in a call from Kyiv. “Because the situation now is really hard and all the players understand about this.”
In Dnipro on Friday, the Russian military struck a medical clinic, killing at least two and injuring more than 20, including children.
Still, the football season continues with the blessing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a bid to help keep some normalcy in daily life.
The kickoff at 2pm in Lviv on Sunday will open the 29th round of games in the 16-team league. All 224 previously scheduled games in the league season have been completed despite the relentless war. There are now 16 games left.