Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu has paid tribute to his side for defying the odds by moving closer to the Uefa Europa League final.
Shakhtar face double defending champions Sevilla tonight in Lviv, where they have been billeted some 800km from their home city due to ongoing political issues.
Lucescu believes the fact his side are in a position to be two legs away from a place in the final speaks volumes for the way in which the club have come together to continue their success.
Lucescu said: “Shakhtar, even in the current difficult conditions, continue to play in the Europa League semi-finals. Therefore, I am very proud of my players and my team.
“It is very important that we continue in the same vein. The support of our fans has been very important to us, and I hope all our fans in the Arena Lviv will be just like the fans of Sevilla in Seville.”
Shakhtar go into the game having seen their slim hopes of overhauling domestic league leaders Dynamo Kiev hit by a draw away to Chornomorets at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Sevilla, who face the very real possibility of failing to qualify for Europe next season, ended a run of six Le Liga games without a win by beating Real Betis 2-0 last Sunday. They currently lie seventh in the league, three points behind Athletic Bilbao.
Despite his side’s stunning recent performances in the Europa League, coach Unai Emery insisted his players could take nothing for granted ahead of the first leg in Ukraine. “It is difficult to gauge — we are two rivals with a history in Europe and they are a team who are used to winning — they have a winning coach and a very important history of international success.
“We face a very difficult match and I don’t think [today] will decide the tie. We might be the winners of the last two years of the competition, but we are coming up against a great team.”
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