For a team that has played for more than a year in the shadow of war, Dnipro is holding up well.
The team is one step away from its first European final, even though it has had to play all of its home games in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, 250 miles north-west of Dnipropetrovsk.
Dnipro’s hometown in eastern Ukraine is well outside the area devastated by the conflict, and the club has held domestic league games there, but UEFA refuses to allow Dnipro to host European games in Dnipropetrovsk. Home fans face a five-hour drive just to get to the Napoli game, yet there has been a rush for tickets, and the game will be a sellout.
Coach Miron Markevych is trying to keep his players grounded, and their thoughts away from mixed domestic form that has hurt their bid for Champions League qualification. Following a 2-0 loss to Zarya Luhansk on Sunday, he said, “I just got the team together and calmed them down.”
Napoli’s preparations have been disturbed by controversy stemming from a 2-2 draw with last-place Parma in Serie A on Sunday.
Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante reportedly claimed Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain asked Parma to give up, since the bankrupt squad was already relegated.
And Napoli coach Rafa Benitez was suspended for this weekend’s match against Cesena for using an expletive to describe all of Italian football. Benitez has made it clear he is considering a return to the English Premier League, but Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has been urging the Spaniard to sign an extension.