After beating Krasnodar in the Round of 32, Dinamo Zagreb’s Europa League campaign will most likely end on March 18th. The Croatian champions have drawn Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur as their opponent in the Europa League Round of 16, arguably the best side remaining in the Europa League, outside of Manchester United and AC Milan. The first leg kicks off from North London this Thursday at 3PM (ET). 19 year-old Joško Gvardiol will be in the stands for both matches after suffering a minor quad injury that will keep him sidelined for roughly three weeks. Gvardiol has been one of the most important players for Dinamo Zagreb this season, handing the club an even bigger disadvantage going into their tie against one of England’s biggest clubs with the injury news.
In order to put up a fight against Tottenham, players such as Mislav Oršić, Bruno Petković, and Dominik Livaković need to play the match of their lives. Tottenham, currently sitting 7th in the Premier League table, need to win the Europa League to qualify for next season’s Champion’s League. As other English sides continue to stay in form, their chances of making the top-4 in the Premier League seem to become slimmer every day. The question is: will Tottenham disregard their Premier League matchup against Arsenal on March 14th and play their first team against Dinamo?
Most likely, yes.
This Europa League tie will be a test for many young Croatian footballers such as Luka Ivanušec, Lovro Majer, and Kristijan Jakić, and also a test for players such as Mislav Oršić and Bruno Petković, two players fighting for their spot on the Croatian National Team. I am expecting Dinamo to be a hungry and motivated side in their two matches against Tottenham. The Modri have the chance to upset one of Europe’s largest clubs, and I am expecting Dinamo to put up a decent fight against Tottenham – but no matter how much hunger Dinamo brings into the game – it will be extremely hard for them to outplay world class stars such as Son, Kane, and Bale; when they need a Europa League title for Champions League glory. This is one of the strongest Dinamo teams we have seen this century, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high for this matchup. No matter the outcome of the two legs, this tie will provide great exposure for many young Croatian talents and Vatreni regulars.
Dinamo are playing with house money but I just don’t see a path where they can get past Spurs and book a ticket to the Europa League quarterfinals.
Prediction over two legs: Spurs 4-1