Europa League title drives Benitez and Napoli with Fiorentina’s task cut out for all-Italian final

Ian Hawkey looks at the semi-final draw for the continent's second-tier competition and lists what to expect from the two legs on May 7 and 14.

Napoli's coach Rafa Benitez will win his fifth European title after enjoying success with Valencia, Liverpool and Chelsea. Ciro De Luca / Reuters
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The chances of an all-Italian line-up in the Europa League final in Warsaw on May 27 were kept alive after Napoli and Fiorentina were placed in opposite sides of the draw for the semi-finals of the competition.

Holders Sevilla will take on Fiorentina, while Napoli go up against Dnipro. Here is what to look for from the two match-ups which will be played on May 7 and May 14.

Napoli v Dnipro

Rafa Benitez, the Napoli coach, is in familiar territory, chasing a fifth major European final with a fourth different club. It seems likely Benitez will be taking his knock-out knack elsewhere come the summer.

A shiny Europa League winners medal, to go with the one he won with Chelsea in 2013, the Uefa Cup he achieved with Valencia 11 years ago, and the Uefa Champions League he collected with Liverpool a decade back, would garnish his CV that little bit more.

Whoever goes through from this tie, one set of supporters will celebrate their greatest night, come the final in Warsaw, for at least a generation.

Napoli, winners of the Uefa Cup in 1989 but down in Serie C as recently as nine years ago, would confirm their revival as a force in the elite of the game.

They are a club again that can represent the vitality of their unique city, Naples, proudly across a sport where the big investors tends to be drawn to more glamorous places, like London, or Paris.

As for Dnipro, the presence of any Ukrainian club this far in an international competition, given the social and political upheaval in that country, is an event to respect.

That they are the third best team in the domestic table, a club with none of the European pedigree of Dynamo Kiev or Shakhtar Donetsk, is already a tour de force.

Keep an eye on a couple of men, blessed with many creative gifts but infrequent participants at major international tournaments: NapoIi’s Slovakian sophisticate Marek Hamsik, and Dnipro’s Ukrainian wizard Evgen Konoplyanka, potential match-winners both.

Sevilla v Fiorentina

An all-Italian final remains a possibility thanks to the combinations drawn in the semi-finals, but if there is to be one it will still have a distinctly Spanish flavour.

Fiorentina, like Napoli, have Spaniards in key positions, in Marcos Alonso – whose father (for Barcelona) and grandfather (for Real Madrid) both played in European Cup finals – Borja Valero and Joaquin.

Joaquin, the winger, will return to his native Andalucia for the first leg, and can expect a raucous, hostile reception, as a former Real Betis player.

He would enjoy reminding Sevillistas of his panache, and that he has made a success of his career in Italy in a Fiorentina side that can be dashing to watch and who have added a potent weapon to their attack with the January recruitment, on loan from Chelsea, of the speedy Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah.

Sevilla will hope to exploit the leakiness that sometimes afflicts Fiorentina’s defence.

Their home form is a considerable ally. They are unbeaten at the Sanchez Pizjuan for almost 14 months now.

Of all the remaining clubs in the competition, Sevilla look like the aristocrats.

Fiorentina and Napoli have both flirted with bankruptcy in recent years.

Dnipro are newcomers to this level of European competition, while the Spanish team, holders of the title and twice winners of its predecessor, the Uefa Cup in 2006 and 2007, would be entitled to think it is natural fit in their trophy room. That makes Unai Emery’s side favourites to make the final.

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