They have raced out of the blocks in the Ukrainian Premier League but FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have work to do to avoid a false start in the UEFA Europa League. Ukraine's early frontrunners suffered a 2-1 defeat by FK Spartak Zlatibor Voda in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie last Thursday, succumbing to a 90th-minute Vladimir Torbica penalty after Volodymyr Homenyuk had equalised the same player's opening goal.
It was a setback to their ambitions but in-form striker Yevhen Seleznyov remains optimistic about Dnipro going "as far as they can" in Europe after they bounced back from losing in Serbia with a fourth straight victory in the Premier-Liha, 3-0 against FC Obolon Kyiv. Seleznyov, who hit his fifth league goal of 2010/11 in that match, believes Dnipro are well equipped to make an impact at home and abroad – and he should know what it takes having been part of the FC Shakhtar Donetsk squad that won the 2009 UEFA Cup.
"There's strong competition for places and it really helps," said the 25-year-old Ukrainian international. "We don't have any weak positions, particularly in midfield." Seleznyov told UEFA.com that the team have a better understanding this season and, in his case, he is now wholly settled 12 months after arriving from Shakhtar – "I only adjusted fully towards the end of last term". The same goes for others. "[Home-grown prospect] Yevhen Konoplyanka made quick progress in the second half of the season while Vitaliy Mandzyuk and Serhiy Kravchenko had just come in from Dynamo and needed time to adapt."
Some "straight talking" between players and coaching staff has also helped. "We came to the conclusion that Dnipro have everything needed to aim high.
Our fans have waited a long time for the title and they have high hopes. I am fighting to win every game and I want Dnipro to go as far as possible in the Europa League. We're going to give everything both on the domestic front and in Europe." Never Ukrainian champions, Dnipro did, however, win the Soviet Top League in 1983 and 1988.
Seleznyov's own attitude has altered too, he explained. "I used to suffer if I didn't score for a while but now it's not so important for me. Everything is fine as long as Dnipro are winning. The same goes for the Spartak Zlatibor match. The most important thing is to get through and it doesn't matter who scores. It was a real shame we lost the first leg but I've no doubt we'll win through."
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.