Last term they won hearts during an epic journey from play-offs to final; now Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Douglas and Artem Fedetskiy want to take one step further.
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UEFA.com: What are your emotions when you look back on Dnipro's achievements last season – going all the way to the final of the UEFA Europa League?
Douglas: It was an amazing season, one we are very proud of. We beat some world-famous teams and reached the final against Sevilla, a great side. We knew the final would be tough and unfortunately we didn't win, but we left with our heads held high.
Artem Fedetskiy: We came so close to the trophy and knocked out some strong teams along the way, but Sevilla are a good side – they have won the competition four times now – and we maybe lacked some experience; for almost all our players it was the first big final of their career. We took the lead but Sevilla fought back; we ended up needing to score an equaliser and our luck ran out.
UEFA.com: A key factor in Dnipro's success last season was your defence. What was the secret?
Douglas: We defend as a team. In our side, defending begins with the strikers, and the work they put in makes life easier for those of us who play at the back. Credit for our defensive record should go to the whole team.
Fedetskiy: If you look at the statistics, we didn't concede a goal in Kyiv throughout the knockout rounds, and that is because we worked as a team – in modern football defence is not just four players and a goalkeeper, it is everyone, even the forwards. We also keep things simple. If you try to be too clever or invent something while playing in defence your whole team feels less secure.
UEFA.com: You two are vital parts of your team's back four. Can you describe each other's strengths?
Douglas: Fedetskiy is a great player, a very dedicated professional. He's a good communicator – we are always talking when we are on the pitch together – and an essential part of our team.
Fedetskiy: He is a key player for us; he really understands the importance of his position to the team. He started to pick up Russian straight away – he learned the basic terms like 'right' and 'back' perfectly during the first month. You always feel you can rely on him; he has your back.
UEFA.com: What are your team's goals for the coming campaign?
Fedetskiy: We have experienced what it takes to succeed in this competition and we know what it takes to reach the final. We want to go as far as we did last season – and ideally one better.
Douglas: Every team tries to improve with each new season. Last season we got to a final, so this year we aim to reach a final again – and win it this time!
UEFA.com: Having reached the final last time, you're no longer dark horses. Do you expect that to bring added pressure?
Fedetskiy: Definitely, teams will treat us differently. We had some good fortune during the group stage, including away to Qarabağ – who were unlucky not to be awarded an important goal in their game against us – but we deserved to reach the final because of our hard work and determination. Having seen those games, sides will know what we can do.
There will be greater expectations, but we are prepared for that. We know that people will demand a lot from us and we are going to respond in the best way possible.
UEFA.com: So what can we expect from Dnipro this season?
Douglas: You can expect a lot of supporters cheering us from the first to the last whistle of every game. We have supporters who are very passionate about our team and that encourages us in every match.
Fedetskiy: We have a dream and a goal. If we had beaten Sevilla we would now be feeling excited about making our UEFA Champions League debut – and we want to experience that feeling. That's what we will be striving for this season.