"Anything is possible in this life, Mr Lucescu always tells us that," Taras Stepanenko told UEFA.com, with his Shakhtar side not daunted at facing Sevilla.
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Defensive midfielder Taras Stepanenko was one of the millions of Ukrainians who watched Shakhtar win the 2009 UEFA Cup final on television; now the 26-year-old has the chance to help the Pitmen reach another decider. Holders Sevilla stand between his team and the decider in Basel, but Stepanenko is hoping Mircea Lucescu's men are in for the long haul.
UEFA.com: Who are the favourites: Sevilla or Shakhtar?
Taras Stepanenko: I think Sevilla, because they play in a stronger league. Secondly, they have great experience of participating in, and winning, this tournament. And that's very important at this stage of the competition. It's all new to us. Most of our players haven't played at this level, so that's why the most important thing for us is to be prepared mentally. Anything can happen on the football pitch. We may win or we may lose, but we have to give our maximum to get the best result. Everybody should be able to say we did everything we could so that the team could get the best result.
UEFA.com: What are Sevilla's main strengths?
Stepanenko: We spoke with [Sevilla winger] Yevhen Konoplyanka during a national team get-together, and he said they worked a lot on tactics and pressing. They're a skilful team with good, fast players who love to press.
UEFA.com: Has the 2007 round of 16 loss to Sevilla been talked about much?
Stepanenko: It was a painful defeat. Mr Lucescu told us about it in training, and some of the older players remember it. It was hard for them to concede a goal from Sevilla's goalkeeper in the last minute – things like that don't normally happen. We would like some revenge for that.
UEFA.com: Shakhtar won the UEFA Cup in 2009. Does that give you hope?
Stepanenko: I watched that game on TV, because at that time I was playing for Metalurh Zaporizhya – I joined Shakhtar a year later. It was a massive event, the whole country was supporting Shakhtar. Everybody was happy that a team from Ukraine won the UEFA Cup. Anything is possible in this life, Mr Lucescu always tells us that. Nobody is saying we have to win the Europa League, and that if we don't then it will be a disaster, but we have a good young team. We're taking it game by game, doing our best, and then it's in God's hands.
UEFA.com: What does it mean for Shakhtar to have made it this far?
Stepanenko: It's very important. We are battling on three fronts. Unfortunately we've slipped a bit in the league, but getting to the semi-finals of the Europa League proves the team are moving in the right direction. We never play at home [Shakhtar playing home matches in Lviv, 1,000km from Donetsk]. We're playing away all the time, and now that we're playing every three days we almost never see our families, but we keep working and our successes prove it's not in vain.