Viktoria Plzeň and Dinamo Zagreb meet for the first time with the Croatian club having never previous qualified from a group stage.
Article top media content
The champions of the Czech Republic and Croatia come face to face in the round of 32, with Viktoria Plzeň newly arrived from the UEFA Champions League and Dinamo Zagreb having progressed from the group stage of a UEFA competition for the very first time.
• Plzeň won their last two fixtures in the UEFA Champions League to finish third behind Real Madrid and Roma in Group G, while Dinamo came unbeaten through UEFA Europa League Group D with four wins and two draws, finishing six points clear of runners-up Fenerbahçe.
• Plzeň are taking on Croatian opponents for the first time.
• Dinamo have drawn four of their six previous encounters with Czech clubs (W1 L1), most recently overcoming Sparta Praha on away goals (0-0 home, 3-3 away) in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup first round, with future Croatian internationals Dejan Lovren and Milan Badelj among the goals in Prague.
• Plzeň were crowned Czech champions for the fifth time this decade in 2017/18. They finished seven points clear of Slavia Praha to qualify directly for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
• Their third participation in the UEFA Champions League group stage ended like the first two, in 2011/12 and 2013/14, with a third-placed finish and a winter transfer to the UEFA Europa League. Plzeň were beaten 5-0 twice – away to Roma and at home to Real Madrid – but rescued their European season with 2-1 wins away to CSKA Moskva and at home to Roma. That put them level with CSKA on seven points but above the Russian club on the head-to-head rule after a 2-2 draw in the Czech Republic on matchday one.
• Plzeň are in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 for the fifth time. Their only defeat came on their first appearance, against Schalke in 2011/12 (1-1 home, 1-3 away). They have won all three round of 32 ties since, against Napoli in 2012/13 (3-0 away, 2-0 home), Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013/14 (1-1 home, 2-1 away) and Partizan in 2017/18 (1-1 away, 2-0 home) but have never progressed beyond the round of 16.
• Plzeň have won their last seven home games in the UEFA Europa League, play-offs included, scoring 19 goals and never less than two in any game. The last team to deny them a home win in this competition were Romanian club Astra, who beat them 2-1 on matchday three in 2016/17.
• 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 years 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 won their first four group games – 4-1 at home to Fenerbahçe, 2-0 at Anderlecht and twice against Spartak Trnava (2-1 away, 3-1 home) to secure qualification with two games to spare. A 0-0 draw at Fenerbahçe on matchday five sealed first place in the group before another goalless draw at home to Anderlecht.
• Dinamo have made it through the group stage of this competition for the first time in five attempts. Indeed, this is the first time they have qualified from a group stage in any continental competition, at the 14th attempt, having never previously stretched their European involvement into the spring under the flag of Croatia. The last time they were active in the latter stages of a UEFA competition was as a Yugoslav club in the 1969/70 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals.
• Dinamo are unbeaten in their last eight European fixtures on the road (W3 D5), the matchday two win in Brussels finally ending a run of 19 successive away defeats in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League group games that had lasted almost eight years.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Joel Kayamba, Jean-David Beauguel, Marek Bakoš
Out: Tomáš Hájek, Jakub Řezníček, Martin Zeman
In: Komnen Andrić, Iyayi Atiemwen, Roko Baturina, Marijo Cuze, Bartol Franjić, Marko Gjira, Renato Josipović, Josip Šutalo
Out: Mario Budimir, Roko Klemenčić, Bojan Knežević, Luka Menalo
Links and trivia
• Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba was in charge of the Czech Republic at UEFA EURO 2016, overseeing a 2-2 group stage draw with Croatia. Plzeň players Roman Hubník and David Limberský were also involved.
• Dinamo are one of seven teams to have come through the UEFA Europa League group stage undefeated, along with Salzburg, Arsenal, Betis, Villarreal, Eintracht Frankfurt and Chelsea.
• Dinamo are one of only five clubs involved in this round of 32 who have never previously participated in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase; Slavia Praha, Zürich, Malmö and Rennes are the others.
• Plzeň and Dinamo are two of eight current domestic champions in the round of 32.
• After stints as Czech Republic and Anji coach, leading the former at UEFA EURO 2016 in France, Pavel Vrba rejoined Plzeň in June 2017 having previously steered the club to two domestic championship titles in 2011 and 2013 during his first (five-year) spell. He made it three championships in 2018 and also steered the club into the UEFA Champions League group stage for the third time. Once a Baník Ostrava player and coach, he won the 2006/07 Slovak title as Žilina boss.
• 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 in the latter for Kärnten and had spells in Italy with Spezia and in Poland with Lech Poznań before being appointed Dinamo Zagreb boss in May 2018 – just days before the club completed a league and cup double.