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Dinamo face familiar foe as Austria come to town

GNK Dinamo Zagreb are seeking a third consecutive group stage appearance but first must get past an FK Austria Wien side whose coach knows plenty about his play-off rivals.

Ex-Croatian international Nenad Bjelica hopes to plot the demise of Dinamo
Ex-Croatian international Nenad Bjelica hopes to plot the demise of Dinamo ©Bongarts

GNK Dinamo Zagreb are looking to make it a hat-trick of UEFA Champions League group stage appearances when they host FK Austria Wien in the first leg of their play-off tie.

• The clubs have never met but Krunoslav Jurčić's Dinamo are unlikely to hold any surprises for Austria and their coach Nenad Bjelica, a former Croatian international. Despite Bjelica's local knowledge, his team start as underdogs given they have never made it to the group stage before.

Match background
• Croatian champions Dinamo have the advantage of recent UEFA Champions League experience and have already overcome CS Fola Esch and FC Sheriff in the previous two qualifying rounds without conceding a goal. Austria's defence is also unbreached, Bjelica's team having reached the play-offs thanks to a 1-0 aggregate triumph against FH Hafnarfjördur.

• Dinamo's recent home record in qualifiers is formidable. Including this season's 1-0 victories over Fola and Sheriff they have posted eight successive wins. In the UEFA Champions League proper they have found the going tougher, however, their only point from last season's group stage coming from a 1-1 home draw with FC Dynamo Kyiv. That was an improvement on 2011/12, when they lost all six group games.

• Dinamo have reached the UEFA Champions League group stage four times but have also suffered against Austrian opposition in the past, losing to FC Salzburg in the 2009/10 third qualifying round. After drawing 1-1 away in the first leg they succumbed 2-1 at home. From the current squad, Sammir is the only survivor of that costly defeat.

• That Salzburg setback is Dinamo's sole home defeat by Austrian visitors in four visits; the Croatian club have won two and drawn one.

• European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finalists in 1979, Austria have never competed in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. They lost in the third qualifying round to SL Benfica in 2006/07 and to Olympique de Marseille in 2003/04. They also came close in the first two seasons of the revamped competition, losing second-round ties to Club Brugge KV in 1992/93 and FC Barcelona a year later.

• In their most recent campaign in Europe, 2011/12, Austria got through three qualifying rounds to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they finished third in their section.

• The visitors' only previous tie against Croatia opposition was a 2-2 aggregate draw with HNK Hajduk Split in the 1977/78 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals. Austria won on penalties and then beat FC Dinamo Moskva in a last-four shoot-out before losing the final to RSC Anderlecht.

Team ties
• Coaches Jurčić and Bjelica played against each other in the early 1990s when Jurčić was at NK Inter Zaprešić (then NK Inker Zaprešić) and Bjelica at Osijek – their respective clubs traded home league wins in 1992. They were both Croatian internationals but never coincided in the national team. Jurčić appeared at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Bjelica at UEFA EURO 20004.

• Jurčić played for Dinamo in their UEFA Champions League group stage campaigns in 1998/99 and 1999/2000.

• Bjelica played in an Austro-Croatian tie between NK Osijek and SK Rapid Wien in the 2000/01 UEFA Cup second round. He struck both goals in Osijek's 2-1 home win and another in a 2-0 away success.

• Austria's squad includes two Croatians in reserve goalkeeper Ivan Kardum and defender Kaja Rogulj. With NK Slaven Belupo (2008-11), Rogulj made six appearances against Dinamo, drawing one and losing five. Kardum, playing for Osijek (2006-11), lost all five of his games against the Zagreb outfit.

• With Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Junior Fernándes enjoyed success against Rapid Wien in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage, appearing in a 4-0 away victory and a 3-0 home triumph.

• Roman Kienast was an Austria substitute in their 1-0 defeat by Josip Šimunić’s Croatia in their opening group game at UEFA EURO 2008. Šimunić also featured when Croatia earned another 1-0 win over an Austria side including Manuel Ortlechner in a May 2010 friendly.

• Zvonko Pamić had a spell in Grazer AK's youth team.

• Austria defender Marin Leovac holds dual Austrian and Croatian citizenship.

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