FC Shakhtar Donetsk began the new season as they ended the old, with victory over FC Dynamo Kyiv on Saturday in the Ukrainian Super Cup.
Since claiming their second title in four years in June, Shakhtar have reinforced their squad with a number of new arrivals. Chief among them is Turkish international Tolga Seyhan, who is likely to line up in defence alongside Vyacheslav Shevchuk, captured from FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on a five-year deal.
Vyacheslav Sviderskiy and Oleg Karamushka are other additions, but it was one of last season's heroes, Elano Blumer, who got the 2005/06 campaign off to a perfect start. The Brazilian playmaker gave Shakhtar the lead against Dynamo and although Valentin Belkevich equalised, the champions secured a 3-2 victory on penalties.
The match was the first to be played under the new Football Federation of Ukraine ruling restricting teams to eight foreign players on the pitch at any one time. Dynamo's new coach Leonid Buriak included six Ukrainians in his starting XI, with summer signings Serhiy Rebrov and former Dnipro playmaker Ruslan Rotan among them.
Much is expected of that duo, who scored three goals apiece in a pre-season friendly. Dynamo also have several homegrown products to call on - and one, Under-21 striker Oleksandr Aliyev, converted his shoot-out penalty after coming on as a substitute.
Shakhtar and Dynamo finished a staggering 24 points clear of their nearest challengers last term, and it could be the same this time around with none of their rivals able to compete with their outlay. Last season's third-place finishers FC Metalurh Donetsk named 35-year-old Oleksandr Sevidov as coach and promptly signed midfielder Levan Tskitishvili from SC Freiburg.
The Georgian international is Metalurh's only new face, however, while Igor Gjuzelov and Nenad Mladenovic were released. Fellow UEFA Cup hopefuls Dnipro have also had to cope with losses as AEK Athens FC-bound Oleh Venhlinskiy followed Rotan and Shevchuk out of the Meteor stadium. Belarus striker Siarhei Karnilenka and Ukrainian international Ruslan Bidnenko have penned permanent deals though.
FC Tavriya Simferopol have high hopes of challenging the top four, and FC Zakarpattya Uzhgorod could be a team to watch after recruiting Ukraine Under-21 players Rustam Khudzhamov and Serhiy Rozhok on loan from Dynamo. Substantially more experienced, 64-year-old Victor Nosovhas has been appointed coach of FC Vorskla Poltava, while 54-year-old Miron Markevich has taken over at FC Metalist Kharkiv.
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