The race to reach the riches of the Champions League Group Stage reaches it's climax as Dinamo Zagreb host Rosenborg at Maksimir in the first leg of their playoff tie as the Norwegian Champions look to make their first Group Stage appearance in over a decade. Dinamo last appeared in the Groups in 2016-17 and will look to make amends after six defeats from six in that last appearance.
How they got here
After a surprise draw in their third qualifying round first leg in Zagreb, Dinamo hammered Ferencvaros in the second leg 4-0 thanks to goals from Arijan Ademi, Bruno Petkovic, Dani Olmo and Amer Gojak. Prior to knocking out Fradi, they had defeated Saburtalo 5-0 in the second qualifying round. Their Prva Liga campaign has gotten off to an unbeaten start also and last season’s Europa League campaign saw them reach the last sixteen.
Rosenborg, meanwhile, outclassed a defensively weak Maribor 6-2 on aggregate in the last round with good performances in each leg from Anders Konradsen and Alexander Soderlund. However, they sit ten points back in the Eliteserien just over halfway into the league season and this represents a good chance to get their season back on track.
Dinamo have added Croatia Under 21 international Luka Ivanusec to the squad this week from Lokomotiva and he may make his debut for the club at some point in this tie. Much of the side were rested in their 2-1 win over Inter Zapresic on Friday and, while the future of star midfielder Dani Olmo is still up in the air, he is expected to be at the club through the play-off ties at least. Fringe players Komnen Andric and Sadegh Moharrami will miss out but the squad is otherwise fully fit. Manager Nenad Bjelica has also been praising the progress of young midfielder Lovro Majer and he may play a more prominent role than in previous rounds.
Rosenborg similarly chopped and changed in their 1-1 draw away to Odd and enter the game with their full first team available to them.
Predicted Line Ups
Livakovic; Leovac, Peric, Dilaver, Stojanovic; Ademi, Moro, Hajrovic, Olmo, Orsic; Petkovic
Hansen; Meling, Hovland, Reginiussen, Hedenstad; Jensen, Lundemo, Konradsen, Akintola, Adegbenro; Soderlund
Mislav Orsic vs Vegar Hedenstad and Bruno Petkovic vs Tore Reginiussen
While most of the headlines for Dinamo are taken by Spanish wonder kid Dani Olmo, Dinamo's formidable attack is built around two lower-profile players. Both Orsic and Petkovic have begun to receive recognition for the Croatian national side and both are vital cogs in the exceptional pace of Dinamo's counter-attacking football, so often seen to brutal effect in their Europa League campaign last year. Reginiussen will need to use all of his considerable experience to deal with not only the technical skill of Petkovic, but also his 6ft 4in frame that makes him an obvious target for his teammates.
Orsic has impressed mightily on the left-wing since joining Dinamo from South Korean football and his presence allowed Dani Olmo to move into the central position that kick-started his ascendency to becoming one of world football's hottest prospects. If Hedenstad can keep Orsic quiet, it will go a long way to keeping Dinamo as a whole quiet and a long way to giving Rosenborg a positive result to take back to Trondheim.
What the teams have said
Rosenborg keeper Andre Hansen was quiet about Rosenborg's chances as he told the club's channel "It's not every year we have the opportunity to reach the Champions League. But a Group Stage regardless of the outcome of this game means we'll be more relaxed about this game."
Dinamo striker Bruno Petkovic told Vecernji List: “Most will say that Dinamo are better than Rosenborg, but it doesn't matter. You have to show your quality in the field. We are different teams, everyone has their own qualities, but we have no reason to fear anyone”