Inter Milan can reach their first European final since winning the Champions League in 2010 if they beat Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semifinals in Germany.
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has been crucial to the success of Antonio Conte’s Inter lineup, scoring in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Bayer Leverkusen. Lukaku also scored against Getafe in the last 16.
Inter coach Conte said Shakhtar would be the toughest team his side would have faced in this season’s Europa League.
“We have a lot or respect for Shakhtar. We are facing a team who have established themselves over the years, and we are well prepared. [Shakhtar] are the strongest opponents we have faced so far in our Europa League path, but we want to show that there’s a reason that we are in the semi-finals and our aim is to reach the final,” said Conte.
Shakhtar, the 2009 champion, beat a tired Basel squad 4-1 in the quarterfinals. They have the usual blend of Ukrainian defenders holding the line behind Brazil-born attacking talent.
One of Shakhtar’s Brazilian contingent, Taison, has been at the club since 2013 and believes leaving a legacy by winning the Europa League matters even more to those who have lived through the highs and lows of recent seasons.
“Especially for those of us who have been in the club for so long, we’ve had this dream in our heads of getting to the final,” Taison told UEFA.com
“We knew that when we reached the quarter-finals or semi-finals we were going to face strong teams, but we’ve had this in our minds, even as we face Inter, of making it to the final.
“We want to go down in the history of the club, and to do that we must lift trophies such as the Europa League.”
The winner will play Sevilla in Friday’s final after the Spanish club knocked out Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday.
Inter: Romelu Lukaku (31 goals).
Shakhtar: Junior Moraes (25 goals).
Inter: Ashley Young (5 assists since joining in January).
Shakhtar: Taison (10 assists).
Inter: Stefan de Vrij.
Shakhtar: Mykola Matvienko.
Inter: Serie A (2nd), Coppa Italia (semifinals).
Shakhtar: Ukrainian Premier League (champions), Ukrainian Cup (round of 16).
European Cup best
Inter: Champions (1964, 1965, 2010).
Shakhtar: Quarterfinals (2011).
Europa League/UEFA Cup best
Inter: Champions (1991, ‘94, ’98).
Shakhtar: Champions (2009).
Inter: 417 million euros ($494 million).
Shakhtar: 3.76 billion hryvnya ($137 million).
With inputs from AP and AFP