Dinamo Zagreb's longest European campaign continues against Benfica, who are unbeaten in the round of 16.
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Dinamo Zagreb's longest ever European campaign continues with an intriguing round of 16 tie against Benfica, who have played more matches in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase than any other club and have a perfect record at this stage of the competition.
• Dinamo came through a European group stage for the first time this term, going unbeaten through UEFA Europa League Group D with four wins and two draws, before extending their involvement with a round of 32 comeback success against Viktoria Plzeň.
• Benfica crossed over to the UEFA Europa League having finished third in their UEFA Champions League group, behind Bayern München and Ajax, with seven points. They overcame another autumn UEFA Champions League participant in the round of 32, eliminating Galatasaray 2-1 on aggregate.
• The clubs' paths have crossed twice previously in UEFA competition, Benfica beating Dinamo 2-0 on aggregate (0-0 away, 2-0 home) in the 1980/81 European Cup Winners' Cup first round and 2-0 at home again in a 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage encounter. Dinamo are therefore yet to score against the Lisbon club in three meetings.
• Dinamo have won three of their other four home fixtures against Portuguese opposition but lost the most recent, 0-2 against Porto in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage. They have lost on all six of their visits to Portugal.
• Benfica's only other encounters with Croatian opposition came in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League group stage, when they drew 0-0 away to Hajduk Split and beat them 2-1 at home en route to qualifying for the quarter-finals. They are therefore undefeated in five matches against Croatian clubs.
• 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 – both of which ended goalless. A first defeat of the campaign, 1-2 in Plzen, put Dinamo up against it in the round of 32 but they recovered with a 3-0 win in Zagreb.
• This season is the first time Dinamo have qualified from a European group stage, at the 14th attempt, having never previously stretched their 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 undefeated in their last seven UEFA Europa League home games, qualifiers included, winning five of them and scoring 17 goals. The defeat by Young Boys in August is the only one they have incurred in their last nine European games in Zagreb (W6 D2).
• Portuguese Liga runners-up in 2017/18 after a club-record four successive league titles, Benfica kicked off their European season in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate win against Fenerbahçe before PAOK were defeated in the play-offs (1-1 home, 4-1 away) to send the Lisbon club into the group stage for the ninth season in a row – and 14th in all.
• Having finished bottom of their group with zero points in 2017/18, this time round the Eagles won home and away against AEK Athens to claim third place in Group E, their only other point coming in a 1-1 draw at home to Ajax. Galatasaray were overcome in Benfica's first UEFA Europa League encounters since the 2014 final, a 2-1 win in Istanbul preceding a 0-0 Lisbon draw.
• Benfica are in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for a record-equalling fifth time (along with Valencia and Zenit), their four previous ties having all been successful – against Marseille in 2009/10 (1-1 home, 2-1 away), Paris Saint-Germain in 2010/11 (2-1 home, 1-1 away), Bordeaux in 2012/13 (1-0 home, 3-2 away) and Tottenham in 2013/14 (3-1 away, 2-2 home). They are unbeaten in their eight round of 16 matches (W5 D3) and have won three of four away fixtures, scoring nine goals.
• Benfica have been defeated in ten of their last 19 European fixtures, but the five wins and four draws have all been this season, during which they have won more away games (three) than they have lost (two). Their overall record on the road in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, is W10 D5 L4, with four wins and a draw in their last five fixtures.
Links and trivia
• Dinamo's Mario Gavranović and Benfica's Haris Seferović are both Swiss international strikers.
• Seferović played briefly with Izet Hajrović at Grasshoppers in 2009/10.
• Benfica's Filip Krovinović is Croatian and played alongside Dominik Livaković and Ivan Šunjić for city rivals NK Zagreb. Krovinović played youth football for Dinamo and made his Zagreb debut in a derby against Dinamo in 2012/13.
• Dinamo are one of four clubs involved in this round of 16 who have never previously participated at this juncture of the UEFA Europa League; Slavia Praha, Eintracht Frankfurt and Rennes are the others.
• Dinamo are one of two current domestic champions in the round of 16, together with Salzburg. Six others were eliminated in the round of 32.
• This is Dinamo's 15th match in Europe this season. They had never previously managed more than 12 games in a continental campaign.
• Benfica have played more matches in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase than any other club (34). They reached the quarter-finals in 2010, the semi-finals in 2011, and successive finals in 2013 and 2014 – which they lost, respectively, to Chelsea in Amsterdam (1-2) and Sevilla in Turin (0-0, 2-4 on penalties). In contrast, they have played just six games in the group stage and none since 2009/10.
• Benfica came from behind to win 2-1 at Porto last weekend with goals from João Félix and Rafa Silva, replacing their hosts at the top of the Portuguese Liga table.
• 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.
• Bruno Lage was appointed as Benfica coach on 14 January until the end of the season, having previously been in charge of the club's B team then served in an interim capacity following Rui Vitória's dismissal earlier that month. On 19 February, he agreed a contract until 2023. The 42-year-old from Setubal (also José Mourinho's home town) has never previously served as a head coach in the top flight, although he has considerable experience in auxiliary roles. He was Benfica's youth coach from 2004–12 and subsequently worked in English football as the assistant to Carlos Carvalhal at Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea.