Rafael Benitez can take another step towards ensuring further UEFA Europa League success when his Napoli side welcome Dnipro for the Ukrainian side’s first European semi-final.
The Spaniard – said to be considering an exit from the Stadio Sao Paolo at the end of the season – is seeking to add to UEFA Cup and Europa League titles he won with Valencia and Chelsea.
The Europa League also represents Napoli’s final chance to add to their Supercoppa Italiana success from this season.
A dominant 6-3 aggregate victory over Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals set Napoli on their way to the final four where they will face a Dnipro side breaking new ground in the first leg under Myron Markevych.
Benitez welcomed back Ivan Strinic for Sunday’s 3-0 Serie A win over Milan but will likely be without forward Michu again due to a thigh problem.
And the former Inter boss was eager not to get carried away following the draw despite acknowledging: “The prize for going through is very important, a place in the final of a European competition no less.
“Dnipro has already shown their capacity and potential by beating teams like Olympiakos, Ajax and [Club] Bruges, the latter unbeaten up until the quarter-final.
“All of those teams are well-known in Europe and have been knocked out by this Ukrainian team.
“On the other hand I have absolute confidence in my players’ potential because of what they have already achieved and what they show every day in the training sessions. I am sure they are capable of showing even more.”
Away from home in Europe this term, Dnipro have won just once in eight matches and, dauntingly for them, Napoli’s tally of 25 goals in this season’s competition is the best of any side.
Brazilian forward Matheus could shake off a back problem to bolster Markevych’s attacking options.
Roman Zozulya (knee) is expected to miss out, with midfielder Valeriy Fedorchuk eager for Dnipro to prove people wrong again.
“Few people believed we could get this far at the beginning of the season but now we are just a couple of steps from the final, they are looking at us very differently,” he explained after the draw was made.
“We are not afraid of anybody now. Napoli are very strong, obviously, full of top-class players.
“But we have wings now and will do our best to reach the final. The lads are totally focused on the next match; we don’t have time to think about anything else.”
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