Sevilla boss Unai Emery says his players are excited at the prospect of making Europa League history this season.
The holders face Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the semi-finals on Thursday having become the first side in the tournament’s modern era to successfully defend their title last term.
Sevilla were disappointed to exit the Champions League during the group stage and are nine points off the top four in La Liga with just three matches left to play.
With a fifth Europa League title within their sights and a subsequent place back at the top table in European club football, Emery is confident his squad are fired up for the task.
“We have a lot of hope. We’re aware of the important moment we’re in. I see excited players, who know they have a new opportunity to make history,” he said.
“I think the tie is 50-50. They’ve [Shakhtar] also won this competition. They’re a winning team, they have a winning coach and their history is great.
“They have players of an international standard, but we’re defending the title. I don’t think it will be decided tomorrow [Thursday].
“Training will be important. We have to see what percentage Vitolo, [Benoit] Tremoulinas and [Adil] Rami have of being available. That will also depend on the will of the players and my decision before the game.”
Emery went on to back Ukraine star Yevhen Konoplyanka to provide some key insight into how to secure a first-leg advantage over Shakhtar.
“Konoplyanka is a great person and is very humble. He’s a top player, he’ll show that with us,” he said. “He has a lot of respect and his team-mates respect him. He knows Shakhtar and will let us know of the chances which can come our way.”
Konoplyanka, however, does not believe Emery requires any extra help when it comes to the Europa League knock-outs.
“I haven’t won two Europa Leagues – I’m sure Emery knows Shakhtar better than me!” he said.
“The psychology of winning is always important. We’ll try to look for the win. These are two strong teams,it would be better had they met in the final.”
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