Tagged: West Ham
Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 at 2:00 pm #78171Iron ManKeymaster
West Ham’s long-awaited return to European action ends on Thursday evening when David Moyes’ team take on Dinamo Zagreb.
The Hammers will prepare at their Rush Green training ground on Wednesday morning before an afternoon flight to the Croatian capital ahead of the opening match in Group H.
Dinamo are a well-seasoned European team who reached the quarter-final stages of the Europa League last season taking the scalp of Tottenham Hotspur along the way.
West Ham on the other hand have never reached the group stages of the Europa League going out in successive seasons between 2015 and 2016 to Romanian outfit Astra Giurgiu in the qualifying rounds.
The Hammers have distant success in Europe being crowned Cup Winners Cup champions in their first-ever continental campaign in 1965.
If West Ham can repeat that trick come May 18, 2022, in Sevilla the manager and team will go down as Hammers legends and that journey begins with Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday evening at 5:45pm UK time.
Ahead of the trip to Croatia football.london spoke to Telesport’s football writer Juraj Vrdoljak to get the lowdown on West Ham’s opponents Dinamo Zagreb.
How have Dinamo Zagreb fared in the opening weeks of the Croatian season?
Dinamo had somewhat of a mixed start to their season. Damir Krznan was named a full time replacement for the highly controversial, and now also a fugitive coach Zoran Mamić [Mamic is fighting extradition from Bosnia to Croatia having been found guilty of fraud in May 2021], mostly after his sensational feat against Spurs in the last season’s Europa League.
However, the team does show weaknesses; the 3-0 aggregate loss vs Sheriff in the Champions League playoff was seen as a big disappointment for them. However, they still manage to stack up points domestically purely because of their individual quality, regardless of a surprising home loss to Slaven Belupo on the opening day or the underwhelming home draw vs Rijeka [the following weekend].
Even though Dinamo sold some of its prized assets like Lovro Majer, Mario Gavranović and Joško Gvardiol, they still have a lot of quality in their first XI team.
Mislav Oršić, the hat trick hero vs Spurs is still there, as is Bruno Petković, the technically gifted striker who on the other hand isn’t going through his best phase. But when he turns up, be sure he’ll be a threat to anyone as he was previously.
Also, Dominik Livaković – the Croatia national team’s first choice goalkeeper – is one of the key players as well, it just remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit to start due to some minor injury issue.
Theophile-Catherine is also worth noting, an experienced centre-back who commands the backline.
Returning captain Arijan Ademi is another important player for Dinamo with the midfield general likely to be involved in Thursday evening’s match.
What will the atmosphere in Zagreb and the stadium be like?
The atmosphere in Zagreb is often not very intimidating, as the fans lead a long and tiring battle against the club’s board.
Also, the infrastructure is pretty much appalling, and the Covid measures – even though full capacity is allowed providing that everyone has valid EU Covid passes – took a toll on the already underwhelming situation.
But, West Ham United is an opponent who will attract the fans to Maksimir, so I would reckon around 10,000 plus is a reality for the home supporters, the East Stand of the stadium was damaged in a recent earthquake and is therefore closed off [reducing the capacity].
What willDamir Krznarbe expecting from West Ham?
It is a weird position for Krznar, as he cannot outright say that he will give West Ham United the role of a favourite in this game, especially back home.
But at the same time, he is aware of the quality and the form West Ham United has. However, Dinamo is a very seasoned team when it comes to European competitions, and in recent years the likes of Arsenal and Spurs all suffered defeats in [Stadium] Maksimir, so that should be a worrying fact for West Ham United. Dinamo will be very cautious in their approach and they’ll wait for any given opportunity surely.
Are there any West Ham players Dinamo Zagreb will be particularly wary of?
A lot of people in Croatia will await on local favourite Nikola Vlašić, he came out of the Hajduk Split Academy, Dinamo’s arch-rivals, to return to Maksimir yet again. He came to Zagreb not only as a Hajduk player but as part of the CSKA Moscow squad as well.
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Other than that, names like Tomaš Souček, Michail Antonio, Declan Rice are very well known in Croatia as well, but the fans here will hope that West Ham United will rest at least some of their biggest names with the Manchester United game coming up after the one against Dinamo.
What is your prediction for the match?
I expect a rather close encounter that’ll end up in either a draw or a narrow West Ham United win. But do not take Dinamo lightly, even if their form is a bit sub-par in recent weeks.
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