Dinamo Zagreb v R Madrid preview

Dinamo last reached this part of the competition back in 1999
having seen their participation in each of the last five seasons
ended at the third qualifying round. The Croatian champions have
now got that monkey off their backs, beating Malmo in the
play-offs, and their reward was to be drawn in Group D alongside
European heavyweights Madrid, Ajax and Lyon. Dinamo are outsiders
for one of the top two spots, but Madrid are determined not to take
them lightly ahead of their trip to the Maksimir stadium. Assistant
coach Aitor Karanka, who took Tuesday night’s pre-match conference
in place of the suspended Jose Mourinho, said: “They are a
difficult team and we would be mistaken if we think they are a weak
opponent. “It’s been several years since they’ve been in the group
stage and in front of their fans they are going to create a lot of
problems for us. We will have to work hard if we want to get
something positive out of the game.” Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso
added: “We are expecting a difficult game because they have good
players. “We are in the group stages and any opponent is difficult.
After so many years without playing in the Champions League this
match will be an incentive for Dinamo Zagreb.” Madrid reached the
semi-finals of last season’s Champions League – having been knocked
out at the last-16 stage in each of the previous six years – before
being eliminated by arch rivals Barcelona in an ill-tempered
showdown. The actions and comments made by Mourinho during the
first leg of that tie led to UEFA handing the Portuguese a
touchline ban, and he will serve the second of a three-match
suspension tomorrow. Dinamo coach Krunoslav Jurcic believes that
will be a plus for his side. He was quoted as saying by AS: “The
absence of Mourinho could make a difference because he has a lot of
influence in the team. Mourinho is a leader, and leaders are
difficult to replace.” Even without Mourinho, Madrid are
favourites, but Jurcic will not be taking a step back and insists
he will send his side out looking for the victory. “It would go
against all my principles as a coach to think of anything other
than the victory and my players will be thinking of how to get the
better of the Real Madrid players and not with whom they are going
to swap shirts with after the game,” he said. “I don’t need to
motivate my players for a game like this, they want the game to
start and all I can tell them is to go out and enjoy it.” Dinamo go
into the match having dropped their first points of their domestic
campaign at the weekend, drawing 1-1 at Hajduk Split. Despite that,
Dinamo are still top of the standings with 19 points from a
possible 21 – five clear of second-placed Hajduk. Defensive duo
Josip Simunic and Sime Vrsaljko are both suspended while Igor
Biscan, Arijan Ademi and Mehmed Alispahic have all been sidelined
with injuries. Madrid are without Kaka through injury, while summer
signings Hamit Altintop and Nuri Sahin are also unfit and not part
of a 21-man travelling squad. Sami Khedira and Lassana Diarra both
return.