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.