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Madrid a tough first hurdle for returning Dinamo

A home game with nine-time European champions Real Madrid CF is perhaps the hardest way for GNK Dinamo Zagreb to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage after 12 years.

Dinamo Zagreb celebrate returning to the group stage
Dinamo Zagreb celebrate returning to the group stage ©Getty Images

GNK Dinamo Zagreb last competed in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 1999 and could hardly have a harder reintroduction to Europe's elite competition than a match-up with Real Madrid CF, winners of the European Cup on no less than nine occasions.

Previous meetings
• Although the teams have not met before, two of Dinamo's three European ties against Spanish opposition have come against Madrid's city rivals Club Atlético de Madrid. The Zagreb side lost 1-0 at home in the 1965/66 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round, bowing out 5-0 on aggregate, before a 1-1 draw in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup third round en route to a 2-1 aggregate loss.

• Dinamo's sole victory in six matches against Liga sides, four of which they have lost, came in the most recent game, a 2-0 home defeat of Villarreal CF in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage.

• Madrid's only experience of Croatian opposition was a 1984/85 UEFA Cup second round tie against HNK Rijeka. They lost the away leg 3-1 but rescued the situation with a 3-0 win at home.

Match background
• In each of the last five seasons Dinamo's UEFA Champions League dreams ended in the third qualifying round; this time the Croatian champions came through three rounds to book their group return.

• They first overcame Neftçi PFK thanks to a 3-0 home win in which Milan Badelj opened the scoring and Ivan Krstanović notched a second-half double. In the third qualifying round an own goal and Sammir's strike overturned HJK Helsinki's early lead in Finland. Dinamo then added to their aggregate lead with a 1-0 home win courtesy of Luis Ibáñez's goal in added time.

• In the play-off round Dinamo gained a healthy advantage with a 4-1 first-leg defeat of Malmö FF in which Sammir scored twice with Ante Rukavina and Fatos Beqiraj also on target. That proved just enough despite a 2-0 defeat in Sweden, a game in which Šime Vrsaljko was sent off on 50 minutes.

• In both their previous two group stage campaigns Dinamo began with goalless draws, at home to AFC Ajax in 1998/99 and again the following season away to then holders Manchester United FC. In the first participation they were unbeaten at home, drawing two games and winning one, while in 1999/2000 they lost twice and won once.

• Madrid ended a run of six successive last-16 defeats when they made it through to last season's semi-finals, where they lost 3-1 on aggregate to FC Barcelona with the damage inflicted in a 2-0 first-leg loss at the Santiago Bernabéu. In their 15 participations to date they have never once failed to make it through to the knockout rounds and in three of the last four seasons they have emerged as group winners.

• The Merengues launched the campaign 12 months ago with a 2-0 home win against Ajax, their fourth successive matchday one victory.

Team ties
• Tonel is a team-mate of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Carvalho, Fábio Coentrão and Pepe with Portugal.

• Xabi Alonso and Igor Bišćan played together in the Liverpool FC team that won the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League with a memorable final win against AC Milan.

• As a player, Dinamo coach Krunoslav Jurčić featured in two friendly internationals against Spain. His Croatia team lost 3-1 in Seville in May 1999 while the game in Split nine months later finished goalless.

• Jerko Leko came on as a late substitute for FC Dynamo Kyiv as they held Madrid to a 2-2 draw at home in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Leandro Cufré also faced Madrid in the same Group B campaign that season, the defender featuring in both games as AS Roma lost 4-2 away and 3-0 at home against the Merengues. He was also involved in the 2002/03 season as Roma succumbed 3-0 at home to the Spanish giants on matchday one, his debut in UEFA competition.

• Kaká struck the only goal as Brazil beat Croatia at Berlin's Olympiastadion in the 2006 FIFA World Cup group stage.

• Hamit Altıntop was in the Turkey side that beat Croatia on penalties to reach the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008; Josip Šimunić was in the Croatia side with Jerko Leko and Nikola Pokrivač unused substitutes.

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