Tottenham Hotspur continue their campaign in the UEFA Europa League as they lock horns with Dinamo Zagreb in the Round of 16 on Thursday.
Tottenham Hotspur are hoping to translate their excellent form into the UEFA Europa League when they welcome Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday. The Premier League giants are currently on a roll, having won five of their last six competitive matches since the 3-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Manchester City almost a month ago.
Even in the European competition, Jose Mourinho’s recorded an emphatic 8-1 aggregate win over Wolfsberger AC in the Round of 32. In addition, the Lilywhites have found the back of the net four times in four of the last six matches and twice against the Austrian outfit in the last round.
Tottenham, as a result, are the undisputed favourites heading into this fixture, although Mourinho will be aware of what Dinamo are capable of, having themselves beaten Krasnodar in the Round of 16. They had also qualified from a group that included the likes of Feyenoord, CSKA Moscow and Spurs’ last round opponents in Wolfsberger.
In addition to their European form, the Croatian giants are enjoying an excellent campaign in the domestic competition as well, leading the 1.HNL by two points with a game in hand.
It points to be a fascinating contest as the visitors look to cause an upset or at least score an invaluable away goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where the home advantage remains obsolete. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this enticing match-up on Thursday.
Tactics & Team News
Although the threat of Dinamo Zagreb is substantial, Jose Mourinho is likely to bench a few of his key players as Spurs deal with the tight schedule.
Tottenham are expected to dominate possession in this game, so the likely absence of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the starting lineup should bode, as it paves the way for two technically astute midfielders in Tanguy Ndombele and Harry Winks to operate at the base of Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1.
Moving slightly forward, Giovani Lo Celso could return to contention following a long injury layoff. Although the Argentine isn’t a guaranteed starter, he could make an appearance from the bench, perhaps at the expense of Dele Alli in the number ten role.
Other changes in the Tottenham attack should see Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura replace the in-form Son Heung-Min and Gareth Bale, while the attack should once again be spearheaded by Harry Kane.
The English international is set to play a key role in Tottenham’s creative essence in the final third, and it won’t be surprising to see Alli making darting runs in behind the Zagreb defence, especially in the absence of Bale and Son.
Defensively, though, the Lilywhites must remain cautious of the opposition’s ability to launch quick counter-attackers. They could particularly target the right-back, Matt Doherty, knowing Tottenham do like to retain Ben Davies in a more defensive role. Either way, the onus will be on the central defensive duo of Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier to provide protection for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Doherty, Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Ndombele, Winks; Lamela, Alli, Lucas; Kane
Dinamo Zagreb head coach Zoran Mamic primarily favours a 4-3-2-1 that should be an ideal formation against Tottenham Hotspur. It offers the 49-year-old with a lot of tactical flexibility as one of the two playmakers can always drift out wide to form a situational 4-4-2 – offering more solidity in the defensive side of the game.
As far as the attacking side is concerned, Mamic has two options upfront in Mario Gavranovic and Bruno Petkovic, who is the likely starter due to his mobility while the former can be employed as a late substitute – only to be considered as an out and out target man.
In the creative unit, Mislav Orsic is almost a guaranteed starter in the slightly advanced roles, alongside Luka Ivanusec. However, it won’t be surprising to see Orsic move out wide, while Ivanusec may shift into the right-hand side in order to offer more protection in the second line of press.
Speaking of which, the midfield trifecta of Arijan Ademi, Kristijan Jakic and Lovro Majer are set to play a key role in restricting Tottenham from dominating the proceedings. Majer, though, will also be hoping to offer the creative output in the final third by often joining the three attackers.
And finally, in the defensive department, the highly talented Josko Gvardiola should continue at left-back, forming the Zagreb backline alongside the likes of Stefan Ristovski, Rasmus Lauritsen and Kevin Theophile-Catherin.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Livakovic; Ristovski, Lauritsen, Theophile-Catherin, Gvardiol; Majer, Ademi, Jakic; Ivanusec, Orsic; Petkovic
- Tottenham Hotspur and Dinamo Zagreb have met only once before in European competition; Spurs beat Dinamo 4-0 at home during the group stages of the UEFA Cup in 2008-19, a game in which Darren Bent scored a hat-trick.
- Tottenham have played Croatian opposition on seven previous occasions, with six of those being against Hajduk Split. They have won five times and lost twice, with both of those defeats away to Hajduk in 1984 and 1991.
- Dinamo Zagreb have lost nine of their last ten matches against English sides in European competition, winning the other game 2-1 against Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League group stages in 2015.
- Dinamo Zagreb have won each of their last six matches in the UEFA Europa League, embarking on their longest ever winning run in major European competition.
- Harry Kane has scored 28 goals in his last 33 for Spurs in major European competition, including seven in his last six.
Player to Watch
With a host of star players including the likes of Bale, Hojbjerg and Son likely to be dropped to the bench, the onus will be on Harry Kane to provide the quality in the Tottenham attack that should be sufficient to get the better of the Dinamo Zagreb defence this midweek.
Following a tough start to the year, the English international has rekindled his form, to an extent, in recent weeks, notably starring in wins over Burnley, Fulham and Crystal Palace. However, with no Bale or Son making deep runs into the opposition area, it will be interesting to see how Kane adapts his role against Zagreb.
From the opposition’s perspective, stopping Kane from influencing the game could be imperative for Mamic’s men if they are to secure an advantage in this leg. The key will be to suppress the supply line, particularly by closing the ball-carriers like Lamela or Alli in the final third.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb
Dinamo Zagreb are a tougher challenge than one would expect, as far as Tottenham Hotspur are concerned. Therefore, it is a difficult game to predict as a lot could depend on how Mourinho selects his playing given.
Assuming the Portuguese tactician will ring in the changes, Zagreb might find it easier to frustrate the Spurs attack, which is quite ineffective without the likes of Son and Kane making attacking inroads. However, we do favour the Lilywhites to secure a narrow advantage by calling on the reinforcements in the second half.