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May 7, 2015 at 8.05pm UK at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
Lopez (50')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Seleznyov (80')

Preview: Napoli vs. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk

Sports Mole looks ahead to the first leg of the Europa League semi-final between Napoli and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk at the Stadio San Paolo.

Napoli and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk will get their Europa League semi-final underway on Thursday when they meet in Italy for the first leg.

The two sides, who met during the group stage of the competition back in 2012-13, are both looking to reach the final for the first time.


Rafael Benitez head coach of Napoli during the UEFA Champions League qualifying play-off first leg match between SSC Napoli and Athletic Club on August 19, 2014 © Getty Images

Rafael Benitez's Napoli earned an impressive win over Wolfsburg in the last round to book their place in the semi-finals, triumphing 6-3 on aggregate.

A convincing 4-1 victory in Germany all but sealed their place in the last four of the competition before a 2-2 draw on home soil confirmed their progress.

Winning the Europa League could be their only passage into next season's Champions League following an indifferent few weeks in Serie A. The Neapolitans currently sit in fourth place in the table, four points adrift of the coveted top three positions and with four games left to play.

However, four victories from their previous six matches have boosted their hopes of securing a top-three finish. The team's last outing saw them overcome 10-man AC Milan 3-0 at the Stadio San Paolo.

Despite Napoli's strong run in the Europa League and a respectable domestic showing, Benitez's future at the club remains unclear. Amid rumours that he could return to England in the summer, president Aurelio De Laurentiis has admitted that he would like the Spaniard to continue at the helm.

Whether Benitez remains in charge of Napoli remains to be seen, but the 55-year-old has every chance of ending the season on a high with Champions League football and Europa League glory.

Recent form: WWWDWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWLW


FC Dnipro's players celebrate after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League second leg quarter-final football match between FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Club Brugge KV in Kiev on April 23, 2015© Getty Images

Dnipro reached their first European semi-final last month when they knocked out Club Brugge to make it through to the last four of the Europa League.

The Ukrainians drew the first leg 0-0 in Belgium before Evgeniy Shakhov's late strike in the reverse fixture earned them a decisive 1-0 victory over the Belgians.

Myron Markevych's side will travel to Italy full of confidence after losing just one of their previous 11 matches in all competitions. Out of those 11 games, eight have ended as wins for Dnipro.

On the domestic front, Dnipro currently sit in second place in the Ukrainian Premier League, six points behind Dynamo Kiev. They have not lost any of their last eight league games, while their most recent result saw them defeat Chornomorets 3-0 away.

While Dnipro have enjoyed an unprecedented run in this season's Europa League, their form away from home has been patchy. With three defeats, four draws and just one victory to their name, the visitors are expected to find life difficult against Napoli.

That said, having already defeated the likes of Brugge, Ajax and Olympiacos this season, Dnipro could well give themselves a solid platform on which to build during the second leg. Napoli will certainly be wary of their opponents because the away side are more than capable of springing an upset.

Recent form: WDWLDW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLW

Team News

Michu in action for Napoli on October 5, 2014© AFP

Napoli have no fresh injury concerns heading into the match, though forward Michu remains sidelined with a thigh problem.

With bottom-placed Parma up next in the league this weekend, the hosts are unlikely to hold any players back for this match.

The away side will be without Roman Zozulya, who is still nursing a knee injury, while Matheus is doubtful because of a back concern.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Lopez, Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain

Dnipro possible starting lineup:
Bokyo; Douglas, Luchkevych, Fedetskiy; Kankava, Leo Matos, Cheberyachko, Bezus, Rotan; Konoplyanka, Seleznyov

Head To Head

The teams' previous meetings came in the 2012-13 edition of the Europa League, with each beating the other during the group stage. Dnipro, who were managed by former Tottenham Hotspur boss Juande Ramos at the time, earned a 3-1 victory at home before Napoli recorded a 4-2 triumph in the return fixture.

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We say: Napoli 2-0 Dnipro

While it is expected that there will be little to separate these two teams over two legs, home advantage could be vital for Napoli in the first encounter. The Italians have an impressive European record at the Stadio San Paolo, while Dnipro have been underwhelming on their travels this season. The Ukrainians are likely to adopt a dogged approach in an attempt to frustrate Napoli, but the hosts should gain the upper hand thanks to their quality going forward.

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FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk players react after scoring a goal against AFC Ajax during their Europa League Round of 16 match in Kiev on March 12, 2015
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