KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Ukraine’s soccer league is expanding back to 16 teams after years of turmoil sparked by the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the country’s east.
The Ukrainian Football Federation says the coming 2019-20 season will be the last with 12 teams before an expansion to 14 for 2020-21 and 16 the following year.
The Ukrainian Premier League had 16 teams in 2013-14 but lost two based in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.
Just 12 teams have competed since 2016, with some top clubs folding due to economic problems and others – including champion Shakhtar Donetsk – forced to play in exile because their home cities are held by Russia-backed separatists.
None of UEFA’s other top-10 ranked leagues has fewer than 16 teams.
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The UEFA Champions League last 16 first legs wrap up on Wednesday as the tournament then takes a two-week break until Mar. 8.
Manchester City head to a snowy Ukraine to face Dynamo Kiev hoping to fare much better than the other two remaining Premier League teams.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
With Chelsea losing narrowly to Paris Saint-Germain away from home in leg one, then Arsenal beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in their opener, many believe City possess the best chance of the PL clubs to advance to the quarterfinals. Manuel Pellegrini‘s side have been struggling for form as they opted to play the kids at Chelsea last weekend and were knocked out of the FA Cup after a 5-1 shellacking. With the stars set to return after that rest, it is now up to City to deliver and try to put the tie away in the first leg and advance to the last eight for the first-time in club history.
Kiev will make it tough, as Chelsea found out in the group stages, but haven’t played a competitive game since Dec. 9 due to the Ukrainian Premier League being on a winter break. Keeping Andriy Yarmolenko quiet will be the biggest task for Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Co. to deal with.
In the other game on Wednesday, reigning Dutch champs PSV Eindhoven host Atletico Madrid with the Spanish outfit the heavy favorites to advance. That said, if PSV can come flying out of the traps then Phillip Cocu’s side have a chance of causing an upset with his side currently top of the Eredivisie and have won seven of their last eight games. Diego Simeone’s Atleti have faltered in recent weeks, winning just two of their last seven games in all competitions. Can Antoine Griezmann fire them to glory before the second leg at the Vicente Calderon?
Click on the link above to follow the scores live, as both games begin at 2:45 p.m. ET.
UCL last 16 schedule, Wednesday, Feb. 24
Dynamo Kiev vs. Manchester City
PSV Eindhoven vs. Atletico Madrid
Incredible yet relieving scenes from the Ukrainian Premier League today saw a potentially tragic situation turn to heroics.
After taking a vicious yet inadvertent knee to the head in the 20th minute, Ukrainian international and Dynamo Kiev captain Oleg Gusev lay unconscious on the ground.
Reacting immediately to the suddenly dangerous situation, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk midfielder Jaba Kankava (pictured, left) rushed over to his opponent.
Video shows Kankava works without hesitation to remove Gusev’s tongue from blocking his airwaves, a move that likely paid massive dividends.
As soon as the tongue is moved from Gusev’s throat, the player immediately jolts to consciousness and begins to cough and kick violently.
Medical attention was still obviously required, as a dazed and clearly foggy Gusev was lifted by staff and players onto the stretcher, and there is no word on his current condition as of now, although he was apparently seen standing on the sidelines after being brought off.
The heroic actions of Kankava, which appeared to be almost instinctual, very likely avoided what could have been a much worse situation had Gusev gone some time without being able to breathe.
The visiting Dnipro ended up winning 2-0 behind a pair of goals from Matheus bookending the halftime break. With the win, Dnipro is tied with Shakhtar Donetsk for the league’s lead, while Dynamo Kiev sits two points back in third.
Dynamo’s match recap on their official website cited that “human life is above all” and wished Gusev a speedy recovery.
Here is video of the incident: