Dinamo Zagreb vs Tottenham | Thursday 18th March 2021, 17:55 | BT Sport
Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspur side will have to put last weekend’s disappointment behind them quickly, as they head to Croatia to take on Dinamo Zagreb at the Maksimir Stadium.
The manner of their defeat to Arsenal in Sunday’s North London Derby will be what irked them the most, as a memorable goal for Erik Lamela quickly became an afternoon to forget for the Argentinian.
The winger opened the scoring in the first half for Spurs with a sumptuous rabona, before getting himself sent off and watching from the changing rooms as his side failed to win at the Emirates once again (I actually tweeted that I thought he could see red in that game, and it came to fruition at 66/1, so I’ll be riding high on that for at least the next month).
Losing the derby against your local rivals is hardly ideal preparation for an important knock-out tie, but if you thought Tottenham’s build-up to this game was tumultuous, then Dinamo Zagreb’s has been batsh*t crazy.
Already trailing 2-0 on aggregate after the first leg in London, all Dinamo’s players would have wanted to do is get back to Croatia and focus on overturning that deficit.
Instead, they’ve been at the centre of a storyline that wouldn’t look out of place for ‘Dream Team’ Harchester United.
On Monday, head coach Zoran Mamic resigned from his role at the club after having an almost five-year prison sentence confirmed by the country’s high court.
The sentencing was a result of him, and three others including his brother, were found guilty of embezzling £13.4m from player transfers out of the club.
His brother, former club director Zdravko Mamic, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for his role in the criminal activity – though he immediately fled and remains at large in neighbouring Bosnia.
In an explosive press conference, Zdravko sensationally claimed former-Spurs midfielder Luka Modric (signed from Dinamo for £16.5m in 2008) and ex-Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren were involved, forwarding money to Mamic’s family members after clubs had been falsely told player’s were entitled to half their transfer fees.
It’s hardly the ideal preparation for new manager Damir Krznar, who has insisted he’ll be sticking to Zoran’s already established game-plan.
Back on the pitch, things couldn’t be going better for the Croatian league leaders. Modri followed up their defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium with a 5-0 thrashing of relegation candidates FK Varazdin on Sunday afternoon.
It was the latest in a run of nine consecutive domestic wins for Dinamo, who have also won six on the trot at home in all competitions without conceding a single goal.
They’ll need to hope their defence is really at the races here though, and will be boosted by the absence of Son-heung Min – who limped out of last weekend’s North London derby in the first half.
The South Korean winger is one of only two players missing for the visitors, with midfield bruiser Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg – an ever-present force in the Premier League – missing out after accumulating too many bookings.
A boost in his absence is the return of Giovanni Lo Celso to the squad for the first time in 2021, though it’ll likely be Harry Winks that deputises in the Dane’s absence.
He immediately caught my eye as a potential card play, and if he starts I’ll be taking Harry Winks to be booked at 5/2 with bet365.
He’s somehow managed to avoid a booking in the Europa League so far this season, but committing 1.7 fouls per game means his luck could run out sooner rather than later.
Winks has four cards in seven Premier League starts this season, and will definitely be walking a tightrope given the referee’s record this season.
The man in the middle is Davide Massa, and he loves a card.
The Italian official has shown 79 yellow cards in his 15 domestic assignments this season, averaging 5.27 bookings per game.
Another player that will have to be on his best behaviour is Dinamo central midfielder Kristijan Jakic (11/4).
The Croat somehow got away scot-free after committing six fouls in the first leg, and I struggle to see lightning striking twice for him here.
Outside of that performance, despite only picking up one yellow card, he’s still averaging more than two fouls per game in this competition.
I’d be happy to combine the two into a double if they both start, so take Harry Winks and Kristijan Jakic to be booked at 14/1 with bet365.
Bonus points if they get them for fouls on each other.