Defending champions Sevilla look to set return to the final they won last year after a first-leg victory against Fiorentina leaves them in the driving seat. Dnipro still have a chance of upsetting favorites Napoli.
Serie A clubs Fiorentina and Napoli have some work to do if there is to be an all-Italian Europa League final this year. Defending champions Sevilla took a commanding 3-0 lead against Mario Gomez and Fiorentina in the first leg, while Napoli were left frustrated after Yevhen Seleznyov scored a late equalizer for Dnipro in Italy.
Sevilla face a comfortable trip to Tuscany, knowing only a disastrous showing would prevent them from making the final they won last year. If they do so, the Spanish club would stand a chance of winning their fourth Europa League title, as well as securing qualification to the Champions League next season.
As they have throughout the tournament though, Sevilla are keeping their feet on the ground. Despite having not been defeated in their last nine away games in all competitions, head coach Unai Emery knows now is not the time to be presumptuous: "We are going there to attack and win, not to just sit back and let the time pass. That would be a fatal mistake against such good opponents."
As strong as Fiorentina are, they know only a top performance and a slice of fortune will see them beat the defending champions. "It takes a little luck, but football has taught us many things. It is my duty to convey my confidence to the team, said head coach Vincenzo Montella before the game.
Montella will have to do without Micah Richards and Juan Vargas as both are suffering from thigh muscle tears, while defender Nenad Tomovic is doubtful. With Mario Gomez failing to impress in the first leg, Josip Ilicic and former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah, who scored the goals in the weekend's win over Empoli, may have to deliver.
Dnipro excited for biggest game
Despite Dnipro's hometown in eastern Ukraine being clear from the conflict in the country, Dnipro will host Napoli in Kiev on Thursday following UEFA's ruling. A goalless draw would be enough to see the side complete their remarkable European run all the way to the final in Warsaw, Poland on May 27.
Head coach Miron Markevych is trying to keep his players calm ahead of the biggest game in the club's history. Domestic form has dipped in pursuit of the European dream, but with thousands of fans making the five-hour drive to be in the stadium on Thursday night the anticipation is bubbling over. "Nobody backed us, it's surprised everyone that we've come this far," Seleznyov told UEFA.com.
A 2-2 draw with money-strapped, last-place Parma on Sunday was bad enough for Napoli, but the result was further damaged by reports that Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain asked Parma to give up as their relegation was already confirmed. Furthermore, head coach Rafa Benitez received a touchline ban after foul language.
Benitez, who has twice won the tournament with Valencia and Chelsea, is aiming to continue the club's hopes of lifting their first Europa League title since Napoli lifted the then-named UEFA Cup in 1989.
jh/apc (dpa, AP)