Dinamo Zagreb are setting the pace in Group D as they travel to Slovakia to take on Spartak Trnava.
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The reigning champions of Slovakia and Croatia go head to head in Trnava on matchday three of UEFA Europa League Group D, with visitors Dinamo Zagreb flying high at the top of the section thanks to statement wins in their opening two games.
• Seeking a first ever qualification from a UEFA group stage, Dinamo added a 2-0 success at Anderlecht to a 4-1 victory on matchday one at home to Fenerbahçe. Spartak Trnava, meanwhile, lost 2-0 in Istanbul last time out after kicking off their group campaign with a memorable 1-0 home win against Belgium's record champions.
• The clubs are meeting in UEFA competition for the first time.
• Trnava have never lost to Croatian opposition – played two, drawn two – while Dinamo's four games against Slovan Bratislava – their only previous Slovakian opponents – have yielded two wins and two draws.
• 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's victory against Anderlecht ended a run of three home European fixtures without a win. Indeed it was the club's first home success in a match beyond the second qualifying round for nine matches (D4 L4) – a run stretching back seven years.
• 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 will be 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.
• Dinamo are unbeaten in their last six European fixtures outside Croatia (W2 D4), the win at Anderlecht finally bringing to an end a sorry run of 19 successive away defeats in group stage games across both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League that had lasted almost eight years.
Links and trivia
• Trnava's Erik Grendel and Dinamo's Damian Kądzior played together in the 2017/18 Polish Ekstraklasa with Górnik Zabrze.
• Dinamo's Izet Hajrović, who scored twice against Fenerbahçe and once against Anderlecht, is the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League's joint top marksman with three goals – level with Leverkusen's Kai Havertz and Salzburg's Munas Dabbur.
• Dinamo are one of two domestic double-winning teams in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage, Celtic being the other.
• 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.
• 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.