Manchester City’s latest Champions League campaign continues as they host Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at what lies ahead for the Premier League winners in the Group C encounter.
No previous meetings
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Dinamo are new opponents to City, who have never played a Croatian side in any European competition. England is not unfamiliar to them, however. They have twice faced Arsenal in the Champions League group stages, in 2006 and 2015, as well as Manchester United in 1999 and Newcastle in 1997. There have also been UEFA Cup meetings with Fulham and Tottenham. But their record is poor. Of their 11 games against English opposition, they have won just once – against Arsenal four years ago – and lost eight times.
Off to a good start
Dinamo are playing in the Champions League for a seventh time overall and a fifth in nine seasons. They reached the group stage with qualifying victories over Saburtalo, Ferencvaros and Rosenborg. They then saw off Atalanta 4-0 in their group opener, thanks largely to a hat-trick from Mislav Orsic. That victory ended a run of 11 successive group stage defeats for the club. They lost all six of their group games in their most recent appearance at this level, in 2016-17.
The 2018-19 season was another brilliant one for Dinamo on the home front as they won their 13th Croatian league title in 14 seasons. They also reached the last 16 of the Europa League. They have made a strong start to the current campaign, losing just two of their first 17 games in all competitions. They are second in the Croatian table, a point behind leaders Hadjuk Split with a game in hand. They travel to Manchester on the back of a 4-0 win over Lokomotiva Zagreb last Friday.
Dinamo coach Nenad Bjelica, 48, is a recognisable name on the European circuit. A former Croatia international who played for his country at Euro 2004, Bjelica had spells in Spain, Germany and Austria during his career. He moved into coaching with Austrian side Karnten in 2007 and later led Austria Vienna to the Champions League group stages. He also managed clubs in Poland and Italy before taking over at Dinamo in May 2018.
City will be clear favourites but, after opening their campaign positively, Dinamo are determined to do more than make up the numbers. Croatia international Orsic, who has scored five goals in his last four matches, said: “If we didn’t believe in miracles, we wouldn’t be travelling to England. Whoever loves football loves watching Man City – they have brought a new perfection to football – but, despite their quality, they are not from another planet.”
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