Shakhtar Donetsk moves to the UCL group stage after losing to Villarreal

Shakhtar Donetsk will get a place in the group stage in the next Champions League after Villarreal were knocked out in the semifinals on Tuesday.

Amid so much turmoil in Ukrainian football, the upgrade should guarantee tens of millions of euros in Champions League money next season for Shakhtar, which is touring Europe playing charity matches in exile since the Russian invasion.

– Ukraine ends the Premier League season in the middle of the Russian invasion
– UEFA bans Russia’s candidacy for euro 2028, 2032

Villarreal’s overall defeat by Liverpool 5-2 ensured that the title would be won by a team that has already qualified for next season’s Champions League through the domestic league final. Real Madrid and Manchester City play in the second leg of the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Entering next season’s competition, which UEFA is protecting for the title defender, can now move on to the highest-ranked national league, which no longer has a direct place in the group stage starting in September.

That country is Ukraine in 12th place, and their best club is Shakhtar, which was due to enter the playoffs in August.

Shakhtar was leading in the Ukrainian Premier League standings when the season was interrupted last month without an official award title. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the day before the league was due to resume after a two-month winter hiatus.

UEFA should officially confirm Ukraine’s awarding of applications for the European competition within a few weeks.

The financial security offered by Champions League football should help Shakhtar find stability amid uncertainty for Ukrainian football. It is unclear how many players, especially from abroad, can keep and sign for next season, or where the team will train and play.

Shakhtar has been living with uncertainty in exile for eight years. The team has not played in Donetsk since 2014, when it was expelled due to the conflict supported by Russia in their home region in eastern Ukraine. Now it is the scene of intense fighting in the third month of the war.

Playing in the group stage of the 2019-20 Champions League, Shakhtar earned 43.1 million euros ($ 45.4 million) from UEFA in cash from awards and a share in television rights.

In the same season, Dynamo Kyiv received only 7.5 million euros ($ 7.9 million) from playing in the second division of the European League.

Dynamo was second in the suspended Ukrainian standings and should currently start the Champions League in July in the second stage of the qualifying round. Dynamo, which is also on tour playing charity matches, needs to beat three opponents to reach the group stage.

Due to the war, UEFA expelled Russian clubs from European competitions next season, and this also helped to upgrade Shakhtar.

Place in the group stage of the Russian champion Zenit from St. Petersburg was awarded 11th-ranked Scotland this week, making Ukraine next in line if Villarreal do not win the Champions League.

Zenit could join the appeals of the Russian Federation to the Sports Arbitration Court against UEFA and FIFA by banning national and club teams from international competitions.

Russia has already lost the CAS interim judgments in those appeals in March.

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