After what felt like an eternity of Thursday nights spent pouring over some 24-plus games played across the continent, the Europa League is reaching the business-end of proceedings with two games left to play.
We are heading to Ukraine this Thursday, with underdogs Dnipro hosting Napoli in a semi-final second leg that is nicely poised after a 1-1 draw in Italy.
Due to be broadcast on ITV 4, the game should be an interesting one for neutrals, with some notable names out to prove a point and have a major say on proceedings – here are five of them.
1. Yevhen Konoplyanka
The 25-year-old winger is out of contract at the end of the season and after another campaign in which he has dazzled both domestically and in Europe, a big move looks more than likely.
Liverpool nearly signed the attacker for £16m in January – an impressive showing here could see the Reds reaffirm their interest.
2. Rafael Benitez
The Spaniard is on course to win his third Europa League title, following similar successes with Valencia and Chelsea, and a potential place in next season’s Champions League with Napoli.
Defeat Dnipro and likely final opponents Sevilla and the Spaniard could remain in Serie A. Anything else and a return to England could beckon.
3. Nikola Kalinić
Sam Allardyce shelled out a whopping £6m to bring the Croatian prospect to Ewood Park back in 2009, but the striker struggled to make an impact at the Lancashire club.
All told, Kalinic scored seven goals in 44 league appearances but since leaving England in the summer of 2011, he has managed 34 goals in 80 appearances for Dnipro. Time to silence some critics
4. Gonzalo Higuain
Romelu Lukaku may be the current top scorer in the Europa League with eight goals, but the Argentine World Cup finalist is breathing down his neck with seven so far this term.
Linked with a summer move to some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, Higuain could make himself transfer hot property with a goal or two in Europe’s other cup competition.
5. Dmytro Chygrynskiy
Pep Guardiola may be a fine manager capable of winning multiple trophies across the continent, but he has also shown himself to be prone to the occasional bad transfer in the past.
And the signing of Chygrynskiy while Barcelona manager from Shakhtar Donetsk for a hefty €25m certainly ranks among his worst deals. Now with Dnipro, the defender will want to show us some of what Pep saw all those years ago.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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