Will the history repeat itself, or will Vardar pass the round in CL for the first time since 2003?
Ahead of us, we have got the first round of Champions League qualifications, where the Macedonian champions Vardar await the Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb. The match will be held at Philip II Arena in Skopje, and it will be the first encounter in history between these two teams.
They are a dominant force in Macedonian football at the moment, but they fail to perform in European competitions season after season. This year they have another shot at qualifying for the Champions League, or at least passing the first fixture, as they failed to do so in the last 4 seasons.
In previous attempts Bate, Steau Bucharest and Apoel were all too strong of a competition for Macedonians.
Looking at the domestic league, Vardar has managed to accumulate 80 points in the 32 games played, thus leaving them 5 points ahead of 2nd placed Shkendija and astonishing 36 points ahead of 3rd placed Silkes. Despite the great performances in the First League, there is a huge difference when comparing the teams Vardar defeated in domestic league and clubs like Dinamo Zagreb.
Dinamo Zagreb has a good understanding in European competitions, as they have managed to compete in Europe League or Champions League in each of their last 9 seasons. Last season, we could see the Croats beating Fola Esch, Molde and Skenderbau, thus advancing into Champions league group with Arsenal, Bayern Münich and Olympiacos. It’s not a surprise, Dinamo was no match for the teams in the Group F, leaving the competition with disappointing 1 win against Arsenal (2:1). As for the domestic league, Dinamo Zagreb managed to clinch another title, with 8 points ahead of 2nd placed Rijeka, but again, we cannot compare the domestic teams to those they will face in European competitions.
Vardar does not have any new names in their squad compared to the last season, only Obregon, Balotelli (no, not that Balotelli) and goalkeeper Aleksovski. However, they will not be a part of the starting XI. As for Blaževski, he will not play, because of the injury .
Dinamo Zagreb has not seen much changes in their squad neither, but are facing a problem. One of the best players in Euro 2016, Marko Pjaca is having issues with his sinuses so his appearance is questionable. Also, we will not be able to see Pivarić and Taravel, as they are still recovering from the injury as well as Eduardo, who is still out, after winning the Euro’s with Portugal.
Dinamo’s goal is to get a good result before going into second game, but are well aware they must not underestimate their opponents.
“Vardar are a very good team. We’ve seen them in two games, they’re very firm, organised… They are a bit defensively oriented, but can switch sides fast, and often create counter attacks. We’re ready for their game style, and all the demands they’re going to set. I’m sure, definitely sure, that we’re not going to allow ourselves to compromise the situation” is what Dinamo’s coach said before the match.
I do not expect Vardar to be a threat in this match up. So I am leaning towards the Corats to get the head start, as they planned.
Prediction: Dinamo Zagreb -0.5
Odds: 1.93 SBOBET