CSKA Moscow v Dinamo Zagreb | Thursday 29th October 2020, 17:55
Two clubs that are regulars in European competition are once again in Europa League action on a Thursday night when CSKA Moscow entertain Dinamo Zagreb in Russia’s capital. In a group also featuring Feyenoord and Wolfsberger AC, Group K is very much open for all four to qualify, even more so as all teams sit on one point after drawing their respective opening fixtures.
CSKA drew away in Austria after initially taking the lead over Wolfsberger, but an away point in Europe is never a bad outcome. However, it is therefore important they make the most of home advantage if they are indeed to progress out of this group.
We’re looking at temperatures around 8°, which isn’t a great deal colder than it is in Croatian at this time of year, so CSKA don’t necessarily have that in their advantage here, like they often do against clubs from certain nations.
Zagreb began their UEL group stage campaign with a home draw with Feyenoord. It was an open and end-to-end affair which could have gone either way, so they’ll be eager to get a win under their belts second time up. The last time they were in this competition in 2018/19 they would reach the Round of 16, and they progressed out of a competitive group in that season too, so they now how to negotiate this part of the competition.
Looking at the form of the two clubs, you can see each are in decent nick. CSKA have lost just once in nine in all competitions, and their 5-1 home victory over Arsenal Tula earlier in the week was their biggest margin of victory since July, and greatest home win since May 2019. Also, bear in mind that CSKA are no longer the top dogs in Russia and they haven’t won the Premier League since 2015/16.
Dinamo are of course the big cheese in Croatia and very much the dominant force in that part of the world. Only once since the 2005/06 season have they not been champions, so this is certainly a club that is used to winning. The challenge for all clubs that are successful domestic in these smaller footballing nations is if they can have an impact in European competition, and that is something they two clubs have issues with.
Something I have issue with is CSKA being around the evens mark for this game. They are understandably favourites given they have home advantage, but is home actually an advantage for them?
I ask this for good reason as they’ve only won one of their last nine at home in this competition. They’ve faced the likes of Arsenal, Lyon and Porto in that time, but since the start of 2018 they’ve lost to Ferencvaros and Espanyol here, whilst also drawing with Ludogorets.
The question therefore is can Dinamo potentially make the most of this opportunity? Well, they actually went unbeaten the last time they appeared in the group stage in the UEL, so that obviously including three away trips, including clean sheets in Fenerbahce and Anderlecht. They’ve also avoided defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk, Rosenborg, Ferencvaros and Cluj away in Europe in recent years.
Clubs are going to be rotated their squads during this hectic run of European games and a side like Dinamo Zagreb, who already have a fairly comfortable lead at the top of their domestic league, will get the chance to rest more in their league clashes and save themselves for these more taxing European assignments. CSKA haven’t had the chance to have that luxury.
Therefore, I think 10/9 (VBet) on Dinamo Zagreb +0.25 looks too good an opportunity to turn down.
CFR Cluj v Young Boys | Thursday 29th October 2020, 20:00
We have another classic case of two dominant clubs from relatively low key domestic footballing countries square-off on Thursday as CFR Cluj from Romania take on Switzerland’s top side Young Boys.
The two enjoyed contrasting fortunes on MD1 in UEL action last week as Cluj went away to CSKA Sofia and departed with a 2-0 win, whereas the Swiss champions squandered a half-time lead to lose at home to Roma, who are likely to be group winners after six games.
As will be the case in this group, every point is vital in the quest for second spot. Both clubs will therefore target maximum points in this evening kick-off. That is with good reason too as the two outfits enter this contest in particularly good form.
Cluj are actually unbeaten in all competitions inside 90-minutes since a 3-2 home setback to Universitatea Craiova on June 28th, which means they haven’t lost in 18 games. Only losing on penalties saw them exit the UEFA Champions League to Dinamo Zagreb in the qualification stage, and they’re currently the only unbeaten club in their league and conceded just three goals in eight.
Young Boys may sit top of the Swiss Super League five games into the new season but they are yet to reach the high standards they’ve set themselves from the last few seasons. Sure, they’re unbeaten but we’re so used to them really putting teams to the sword, and they’ve been made to work hard to every match so far. We won’t knock them too much for losing to Roma, but they were well beaten away to Midtjylland in Champions League qualification, which was such a disappointment for the club.
Just like the CSKA Moscow v Dinamo Zagreb game above, it is only right that we focus on how both Cluj and Young Boys have performed in European competition in recent times. It is worth noting that Club have lost just one of their last ten at home in Europe, including a cool three wins from three at home in the 2019/20 UEL group stage. They would beat Lazio, Celtic and Rennes at home, and it was only away goal which saw them knocked out by Sevilla in the Round of 32 stage.
Now we compare that to Young Boys. In the Champions League, they’ve only avoided defeat in three away matches since the start of 2010. They are also winless in their previous 11 on the road in the Europa League, although six of the last nine of those have been draws. They’ve failed to progress out of the last four European group stages they’ve been a part of, as well.
Taking all that into account, I’m not entirely sure why Young Boys are favourites for this one. I genuinely don’t understand why. Switzerland has a much higher UEFA coefficient compared to Romania, but you can see the respective European form of the two clubs over the last few seasons. Cluj should be favourites.
Therefore, I’m happy to back CFR Club outright to win this game, and especially at attractive odds of 21/10 (Betfair). You could play it a little safer with Cluj Draw No Bet, and still at odds-against, but I just can’t turn down a home win at these odds.
CSKA Moscow v Dinamo Zagreb – Dinamo Zagreb +0.25 Asian Handicap (10/9 VBet)
CFR Cluj v Young Boys – CFR Cluj to win (21/10 Betfair)