Dinamo Zagreb made it three wins out of three at Spartak Trnava, and will look to cement first place in Group D in Croatia.
Article top media content
The reigning champions of Slovakia and Croatia reconvene in Zagreb on matchday four of UEFA Europa League Group D, with hosts Dinamo Zagreb flying high at the top of the section thanks to their three wins out of three, the latest of them 2-1 in Trnava on 25 October.
• Seeking a first ever qualification from a UEFA group stage, Dinamo made two early statements of intent when they followed up a 4-1 victory at home to Fenerbahçe with a 2-0 success at Anderlecht. Spartak Trnava, meanwhile, kicked off their group campaign with a memorable 1-0 home win against Belgium's record champions but then lost 2-0 in Istanbul before surrendering a half-time lead to go down 1-2 at home to Dinamo.
• A fourth successive victory would ensure Dinamo's passage to the knockout phase. The Zagreb club will clinch first place if they win and Fenerbahçe do not at home to Anderlecht.
• The clubs had never met in UEFA competition until matchday three.
• Trnava have yet to defeat Croatian opposition in three attempts (D2 L1), while Dinamo are now undefeated in five fixtures against Slovakian opponents (W3 D2).
• Dinamo made amends for a rare trophy-less 2016/17 campaign by winning the Croatian league and cup double in 2017/18 – their third in four seasons. They also appeared to be heading for a third UEFA Champions League group stage in four seasons when they eliminated Hapoel Beer Sheva and Astana, then drew 1-1 in the first leg of their play-off away to Young Boys, but a 1-2 defeat in Zagreb sent them into the UEFA Europa League instead.
• Dinamo are looking to progress beyond the group stage of this competition for the first time in five attempts. Indeed, they have yet to qualify from a group stage in any competition and have never stretched their European involvement into the spring while representing Croatia.
• Although the defeat by Young Boys ended a run of four European home games unbeaten, Dinamo's record in Zagreb for the UEFA Europa League group stage is W4 D2 L7; they have scored four goals in each of the last two such matches, winning both.
• Trnava's long wait for a national league title ended after 45 years when they lifted the Superliga crown last season. It earned them a first crack at the UEFA Champions League, but after beating Zrinjski and Legia Warszawa in the opening two qualifying rounds, they fell to Crvena zvezda after extra time in the third. A UEFA Europa League play-off win over Olimpija Ljubljana (2-0 away, 1-1 home) carried them into the group stage.
• The victory against Olimpija made it third time lucky for Trnava after their two previous UEFA Europa League play-off ties – against Lokomotiv Moskva in 2011/12 and FC Zürich in 2014/15 – had both ended in defeat.
• Trnava were unbeaten on the road in this European campaign until the matchday two loss at Fenerbahçe, having won two and drawn two of their four qualifying matches to extend their undefeated run outside Slovakia to seven matches (W4 D3). They have lost just two of their last 17 away matches in Europe (W8 D7).
Links and trivia
• Trnava's Erik Grendel and Dinamo's Damian Kądzior played together in the 2017/18 Polish Ekstraklasa with Górnik Zabrze.
• Dinamo are one of two domestic double-winning teams in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage, Celtic being the other.
• Dinamo are one of six clubs with maximum points from the opening three UEFA Europa League fixtures, the others being Zürich (Group A), Salzburg (B), Arsenal (E), Eintracht Frankfurt (H) and Chelsea (L).
• A former Croatian international midfielder, capped nine times between 2001 and 2004, Nenad Bjelica played for Osijek in his homeland, winning the Croatian Cup in 1999, but spent most of his career abroad – in Spain, Germany and Austria. He began coaching while still playing for FC Kärnten and had spells in Italy with Spezia and Poland with Lech Poznań before being appointed Dinamo Zagreb boss in May 2018 – just days before the club completed a league and cup double.
• A member of the Czech Republic side that reached the final of EURO '96, Radoslav Látal won the UEFA Cup with Schalke a year later and went on to compete in a second UEFA European Championship in 2000. The right-sided midfielder ended his playing career with league and cup successes for Baník Ostrava, but was less successful there in a short stint as a coach, prompting spells in Slovakia, Poland and Belarus before he took over at newly-crowned Slovak champions Spartak Trnava in June 2018.