27.09.2016 10:00 - in: UCL S

      Dinamo under the radar

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      Juventus.com sizes up Tuesday night’s Champions League opponents Dinamo Zagreb
      Rich history on home soil

      Dinamo Zagreb have won 18 Croatian league championships and are currently seeking a phenomenal 12th national title in a row this season.

      Like Juventus, Dinamo have claimed consecutive domestic doubles courtesy of their two Croatian Cup successes in as many years. They have lifted this particular trophy on 14 occasions in their history.

      Prior to Croatian independence, Dinamo were crowned Yugoslavian champions four times, winning seven Yugoslavian Cups in the process.

      Record in Europe

      This is Dinamo’s sixth Champions League campaign, but have failed to qualify from the group stage in all five previous attempts.

      They did, however, pick up all three points in their first UCL home outing last season, beating Arsenal 2-1 – a result which ended their 16-year wait for a victory in Europe’s premier club competition.

      It was Dinamo’s away form that underpinned their progress throughout the Champions League qualifying rounds this season, as they saw off FK Vardar, Dinamo Tbilisi and FC Salzburg en route to Group H.

      Tuesday’s match against Juventus represents the first time that they have faced Italian opponents since locking horns with Parma in the 2000/01 UEFA Cup second round, winning 1-0 at home before going out 2-1 on aggregate.

      You have to go even further back to recall the Croatian capital outfit’s last meeting with the Bianconeri themselves, namely a Coppa delle Fiere quarter-final in 1966-67 won by Dinamo over two legs, while Juve got the upper hand of a double-legged Mitropa Cup tie five years beforehand. 

      The season so far

      With the Croatian football season starting in July, Dinamo Zagreb have already played 10 times in the country’s top tier (the HNL) this term, winning seven, drawing once and losing twice.

      The two defeats against NK Osijek (1-0) and HNK Rijeka (5-2), which came either side of their Champions League loss to Olympique Lyonnais (3-0), prompted the resignation of veteran manager Zlatko Kranjcar.

      Kranjcar’s former assistant Zeljko Sopic subsequently took over the reins just a week ago and has instantly guided the club back to winning ways with Friday’s victory over inter-city rivals NK Lokomotiva, courtesy of Filip Benkovic’s strike in the 82nd minute.

      That result consolidated Dinamo’s current position in third, one point behind early pace-setters Rijeka, who have however played a game less.

      Dinamo’s danger men

      Dinamo’s biggest threats going forwards come down the flanks in the form of El Arbi Hillel Soudani and Junior Fernandes.

      Algerian international right winger Soudani leads the clubs scoring charts with seven goals, plus providing three assists in all competitions, including his side’s crucial extra-time winner to beat Salzburg in the final round of Champions League qualifying.

      Meanwhile, Chilean Fernandes has four goals and three assists to his name so far from the left side previously occupied by Bianconeri new boy Marko Pjaca.

      Pjaca’s exit, coupled with the departure of attacking midfielder Marko Rog to Napoli, has placed greater responsibility on the shoulders of Soudani and Fernandes, but they would both appear to be rising to the challenge in the early stages of this season.

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