Tottenham vs Dinamo Zagreb | Thursday 11th March 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
Tottenham welcome Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb to London on Thursday night, hoping to put themselves in pole position for a place in the Europa League quarter finals.
Jose Mourinho’s side will come into this game in a complete opposite manner to how they entered the first leg of the last round.
Their visit to Hungary to take on Wolfsberger AC was preceded by three consecutive away defeats, but they’re dealing with no such issues here. In fact, Spurs will be buoyed by a four game winning streak that has seen them score an impressive 13 goals and concede just once.
Their somewhat surprising switch to expansive, free-flowing football has been facilitated by the unexpected resurgence of a certain Welshman.
I touched on this in my last piece for WeLoveBetting, but the winger has gone on to prove an even more important factor for his side than I could have imagined.
In his last six starts, Gareth Bale has scored six goals and picked up three assists. Five of those goals have come here at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, including the openers against both Burnley and Crystal Palace.
It makes prices of 11/8 to score anytime and 10/3 to score first especially appealing, whilst 7/1 to score a brace (which he also did against Burnley and Palace) feels rather generous too.
Of course, that’s easier said than done though, and it’s worth considering the relatively dominant defence he’ll be up against in this one.
Dinamo Zagreb are flying high atop the Croatian First League, and have won eight consecutive games heading into this meeting – keeping clean sheets in seven of them. They comfortably dispatched of Russian side FK Krasnodar in the previous round, and absolutely dominated a group that included Spurs’ last opponents.
Modri conceded a solitary goal in their six group games earlier this season, a consolation in a 3-1 victory over another Russian side in CSKA Moscow.
They, unsurprisingly, topped their group comfortably – picking up 14 points from a possible 18 before earning back-to-back victories over Krasnodar in the first knockout round.
Their winning streak should, of course, be taken with a pinch of salt though. Six of those eight wins have come against domestic sides in which they were odds-on favourites, and they haven’t faced a test like this Spurs side yet this season.
One saving grace for them though might be that Jose Mourinho may be tempted to rest personnel, with the North London Derby on the horizon.
The consensus seems to be that he’ll rest one or two of Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Gareth Bale for that game, as they look to make up ground on 4th-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Even resting some of their star players, I think Spurs are far too good for this Zagreb side. They’ll be able to rely on some of their ‘fringe’ players, as they have all season in the Europa League.
Don’t be surprised to see Carlos Vinicius (6 goals, 3 assists) leading the line, with Lucas Moura (4 goals, 1 assist) and Dele Alli (2 goals, 3 assists) in support.
That trio are more than capable of finding the net, and it’s why I’ll be backing Carlos Vinicius to score and Spurs to score 2+ goals at 23/20 with bet365.
The Brazilian striker is yet to really make his mark in English football, but he’s found his feet immediately in the Europa League. He’s netted those six goals in his last 284 minutes of continental action (a goal every 47 minutes), with five of those coming at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
He scored a brace against Wolfsberger last time out, and will relish the opportunity to get on the scoresheet again here.
For a slightly longer poke, I’m taking Bruno Petkovic to be carded at 9/2 with bet365. The Croatian international is Dinamo’s most booked player in the Europa League this season, picking up three cards in his six appearances.
He’s committing an average of two fouls per game in the competition, and was lucky to avoid a caution in the previous round – racking up four fouls in their first leg tie away to CSKA.
He’s in for a long night if Spurs dominate the ball like they should and offers great value at 9/2.