It's finally time for the Europa League semifinal, Napoli's first European semifinal since winning the UEFA Cup in 1989. Gone are the halcyon days of Diego Maradona, but Napoli are trying to build something new and special, and winning this season's Europa League could be a major part of that. First, though, they need to beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, and that will be no easy task.
Pesky and Dangerous
Dnipro are the underdogs of the final four teams in the Europa League, but that doesn't mean that this will be an easy match for Napoli. The Ukrainians have an opportunistic and pernicious attack coupled with an underrated defense, and have the skill to give Napoli a very, very bad day if they're not careful.
Under the tutelage of Myron Markevych, Dnipro have developed a style that wins the ball back efficiently and moves the ball up the pitch at speed. It's a style that could pose significant problems for Napoli, especially with the talents of Yevhen Konoplyanka and Nikola Kalinic driving things. Napoli are fortunate that Dnipro are without Roman Zozulya and Evgeniy Shakhov, but they'll still have to be on guard to keep their rapid-fire attack at bay.
Goals In Sight
Napoli don't just want to win the Europa League, they need to win it. With their summer plans hinging on Champions League qualification and second place in Serie A -- and the guaranteed group stage place that comes with it -- looking like it will be difficult to achieve, the spot offered by winning the Europa League would be awfully nice to have in hand. The extra coefficient points Italy would get for the win would be nice too, but Napoli's main concern should be their own goals.
Napoli have fallen in to a fair bit of scheduling luck, with this tie being wrapped around a match with Parma. That will give Napoli the ability to play very strong sides in both legs, and rotate at the weekend to keep the starters fresh. Especially with Napoli still dealing with a few injuries -- Jonathan De Guzman, Camilo Zuniga, and Michu are out, Ivan Strinic is a question mark, and there are varying reports on Walter Gargano's availability -- that flexibility between matches could prove vital.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Dnipro: Boyko; Fedetskiy, Douglas, Cheberyachko, Matos; Kankava, Rotan, Fedorchuk, Luchkevych, Konoplyanka; Kalinić
Napoli: Andújar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, López; Insigne, Hamšík, Callejón; Higuaín
At A Glance
Dnipro: 2nd in Ukraine Premier League; 15W, 5D, 2L; 44 goals for, 12 goals against; League form: WWWDW
Napoli: 4th; 17W 8D 9L; 62 goals for, 32 goals against; League form: WLWWW
TV: Fox Sports 2 (U.S.), Premium Calcio 1/2 HD (Italy), 2+2 (Ukraine), ITV4 (U.K.), Sportsnet World (Canada)
Online: Fox Soccer 2Go, ESPN3 (U.S.), Premium Play (Italy), Sportsnet World Now (Canada)
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