Dinamo Zagreb welcome Viktoria Plzeň to Croatia trailing 2-1 thanks to two unexpected first-leg goals from Luděk Pernica.
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All is to play for in this round of 32 tie between the champions of Croatia and the Czech Republic, with Viktoria Plzeň, newly arrived from the UEFA Champions League, having come from behind to win the first leg 2-1 against a Dinamo Zagreb side representing Croatia in the knockout phase of a UEFA competition for the very first time.
• Dinamo came unbeaten through UEFA Europa League Group D with four wins and two draws, finishing six points clear of runners-up Fenerbahçe, while Plzeň won their last two fixtures in the UEFA Champions League to finish third behind Real Madrid and Roma in Group G.
• The first meeting of the clubs produced a tight first leg in Plzen, Daniel Olmo's deft chip giving Dinamo the lead just before the interval only for defender Luděk Pernica to prove an unlikely hero as he turned the match in the home side's favour with a second-half double – his first European goals.
• Dinamo have drawn four of their seven previous encounters with Czech clubs (W1 L2), 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.
• 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 time of asking, 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 undefeated in their last six UEFA Europa League home games, qualifiers included, winning four of them and scoring 14 goals. The defeat by Young Boys in August is the only one they have incurred, home or away, in their last 16 European outings (W8 D7).
• Dinamo have won seven of the 20 UEFA competition ties in which they lost the first away leg but have been eliminated on each of the last five occasions. Both times that they have fallen to a 2-1 defeat in the away leg, they have failed to recover the deficit at home, most recently going out to Werder Bremen in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round (2-3 home).
• 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's victory at CSKA Moskva in the autumn ended a run of three successive European away defeats. Their away record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W2 D2 L3 with no wins in the last three (D1 L2), while a 2-0 win at Hapoel Beer Sheva in last season's group stage is their only victory on the road in the competition as a whole since the 2015/16 play-offs – a run of 12 matches (D4 L7).
• On the four occasions that Plzeň have won the first leg of a UEFA competition tie at home they have gone on to qualify, most recently against AEK Larnaca in last season's UEFA Europa League play-off (3-1 home, 0-0 away). They have never previously travelled to the second leg with a 2-1 lead.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
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
In: Joel Kayamba, Jean-David Beauguel, Marek Bakoš
Out: Tomáš Hájek, Jakub Řezníček, Martin Zeman
Links and trivia
• Dinamo are one of seven teams to have come through the group stage undefeated, but they, Salzburg and Arsenal have now surrendered that record, leaving just four – Betis, Villarreal, Eintracht Frankfurt and Chelsea – unbeaten after seven games.
• 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 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 and Plzeň are two of eight current domestic champions in the round of 32.
• Dinamo's record in one UEFA penalty shoot-out is W0 L1:
5-6 v Sheriff, 2010/11 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
• Plzeň have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
• 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.
• 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.