Shakhtar' Stepanenko ready for reigning champion Sevilla

Unai Emery's side is preparing for the first leg of its third successive semifinal appearance on Thursday, with just one defeat in its last 12 matches in the competition, which it has won four times.

shakhtar - cropped

Shakhtar Donetsk will be hoping to capitalise on home advantage when it takes on defending champion Sevilla in the semifinal.

Sevilla may be the most successful side in Europa League history but Taras Stepanenko is confident Shakhtar Donetsk can upset the two-time defending champion.

Unai Emery's side is preparing for the first leg of its third successive semifinal appearance on Thursday, with just one defeat in its last 12 matches in the competition, which it has won four times.

The two sides met in the competition in 2007, then in the guise of the UEFA Cup, when a dramatic conclusion saw Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop score to take the game into extra-time, before Javier Chevanton grabbed the decisive goal.

That stoppage-time header denied Shakhtar a place in the quarter-finals, but it quickly got over the heartache to win the competition two years later – its only European trophy.

>Emery: Sevilla is ready to make history

Shakhtar – under the guidance of veteran coach Mircea Lucescu – has seen off Braga, Anderlecht and Schalke in the knockout stages this season, and Stepanenko is keen to add Sevilla to that list and gain some revenge on the Liga side.

"It was a painful defeat," he told "Mr Lucescu told us about it in training, and some of the older players remember it. We would like some revenge for that.

"They [Sevilla] have great experience of participating in, and winning, this tournament. And that's very important at this stage of the competition.

"It's all new to us. Most of our players haven't played at this level, so that's why the most important thing for us is to be prepared mentally. Anything can happen on the football pitch."

Thursday's opening match in Lviv – Shakhtar continue to play away from the Donbass Arena due to unrest in Ukraine – is only the third meeting between the sides, with at least four goals coming in both previous encounters.

Sevilla comes into the latest clash having beaten Liga rival Athletic Bilbao in the last eight, a 5-4 triumph on penalties after the tie had ended 3-3 on aggregate.

Emery's side is still chasing a European qualification place in the league with three games to go; it is in a battle with Celta Vigo and Bilbao for the two Europa League spots.

A third successive triumph in the competition would ease those worries, though, with a Champions League place on offer for the winners, and Jose Antonio Reyes says the players are hungry to continue their dominance.

"The team is committed and on Thursday we have a very nice semi-final, which it will be intense and we have to fight for it [victory]," said Reyes. 

"To find a team with more hunger [than Sevilla] is impossible, we have pushed despite the workload that we have, fighting from day one."


Key Opta stats: 

- Shakhtar Donetsk has gone four matches without a win over Spanish opposition (losing three); failing to score at all in three of those games.
- Sevilla has faced Ukrainian opposition five times previously; it has never lost (winning four).
- Shakhtar has made it to the semifinal of a major European competition for only the second time; it won the UEFA Cup in 2008/09.
- Although Sevilla has won 11 of its last 12 home matches in the Europa League, it has failed to score in two of their last three on the road in this competition.
- Shakhtar Donetsk has won five consecutive matches in Europe; it has never been on a longer winning streak (including qualifiers). 
- Kevin Gameiro has been involved in four goals across his last three Europa League appearances (three scored and one assist).

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