First legs

Thursday, May 7:

Napoli vs. Dnipro 8:05 PM

Sevilla vs. Fiorentina 8:05 PM

Second legs

Tuesday, May 14:

Dnipro vs. Napoli 8:05 PM

Fiorentina vs. Sevilla 8:05 PM

While many English teams seem to turn their noses up at the Europa League, there are plenty of teams around Europe who give their heart and soul to the competition and Sevilla are the perfect example. The reigning champions from Andalusia are once again within touching distance of what would be a record fourth title.

The route to the final is certainly a long and arduous one for the teams involved but Sevilla have managed to put in a strong title defence while also remaining competitive in the league – a fact that should be noted by those that arrogantly describe the tournament as an “unwanted distraction”. In fact, Unai Emery’s team are currently in fourth place in La Liga and have two potential avenues into next year’s Champions League, with UEFA now offering a spot in the elite tournament to the winner.

It took a late goal of real quality from Kevin Gameiro to seal a 4-3 win over Andre Villas-Boas’ FC Zenit side and secure their place in the last four, where they will now face Italian side Fiorentina for the first time in European competition. Both sides have lost just a single game in the tournament so far and it promises to be a thrilling semi-final of real flair.

Fiorentina may need to win the tournament if they are to return to Europe next season having just slipped out of the top five in Serie A. However, with five games to go, they are just two points away from automatic qualification. They enjoyed a slightly more comfortable quarter-final, having disposed of Dynamo Kiev 3-1 over the two legs. They also beat fellow Italians Roma and English side Tottenham Hotspur on their way to their first semi-final since 2008. Significantly Mario Cognigni’s team has the advantage of playing the second leg at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.

Historically, Sevilla have struggled in Europe against Italian opposition having failed to win their four previous clashes with Serie A sides, but they certainly have experience on their side. The game should be close and could go to the wire but the tournament pedigree of the Spanish team and their Coach should be enough to carry them across the line.

In the second semi-final, Napoli will take on Ukrainian team Dnipro after what appeared to be a favourable draw for Coach Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard has once again proved that he is knows a thing or two about European trophies and has the chance to win his fourth European title – a feat that he would have achieved with four different clubs.

They went into their quarter-final clash with Wolfsburg as underdogs but eased through 6-3 on aggregate after practically finishing the tie off in the first leg with a 1-4 victory away from home. They are the current top scorers in the competition and have maintained a strong challenge for second place in Serie A. Benitez last won the competition 2 years ago when he led Chelsea to victory despite having to coach the team against a backdrop of fan discontent.

Dnipro squeezed through a tight encounter with Club Brugge thanks a single goal from Yevhen Shakhov in the second leg. They have never made it this far in a European competition but have claimed some impressive scalps such as Ajax and Olympiakos along the way. Myron Markevych’s side will almost certainly return to Europe next season the only question is what tournament they will be in. Their inability to score many goals could be their downfall and they may find it hard to deal with tactical prowess of Benitez and the goal-scoring threat of Higuain.

After two tight semi-finals, the winning coaches from the last two editions of the tournament can be expected to head-to-head for the 2015 crown.

2015 Europa League final prediction:

Napoli vs. Sevilla

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