Chelsea will aim to begin the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League on a high when they take on Dinamo Zagreb at Stadion Maksimir on Tuesday.
The UEFA Champions League is set to kick off for the 2022/23 season with the group stage this week. Group E will witness an early fixture on Tuesday evening, with Dinamo Zagreb set to play hosts to Chelsea at Stadion Maksimir this midweek.
Dinamo Zagreb’s 2022/23 season began in July with the Croatian Super Cup final, where they beat Hajduk Split on penalties. The Citizens have been in fine form since then, embarking on an unbeaten start to the league campaign to climb to the top of the 1. HNL standings. And Ante Cacic’s charges went through the qualification campaign to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s form in the early stages of the 2022/23 season has been shaky, with the west London club struggling to stitch together a positive run of results. The Blues have only been in Premier League action thus far, winning thrice and losing two games (D1) to sit in the sixth spot on the table.
Dinamo Zagreb will be Chelsea’s maiden Croatian opponent in a competitive match. And ahead of the first-ever meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
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250x LIVI ???? Dominik Livaković ?
✅️ Nastupi u službenim utakmicama:
Prva HNL: 1️⃣7️⃣7️⃣
— GNK Dinamo (@gnkdinamo) September 3, 2022
Ante Cacic does not have any injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Chelsea. The Dinamo Zagreb manager will have a fully fit squad at his disposal ahead of his side’s opening UEFA Champions League group stage contest on Tuesday.
Cacic rested some of his best players in the 3-1 win over HNK Rijeka this past weekend but should recall them for the game against Chelsea this midweek. One such player will be Dinamo Zagreb captain Arijan Ademi, who will replace Josip Misic in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile, Cacic has shuffled between the 4-4-2 and the 4-1-4-1 formations, but he should prefer the former against Chelsea. Dominik Livakovic will start between the sticks for the hosts, with the defensive unit likely witnessing a couple of changes.
Dino Peric should replace Rasmus Lauritsen at the heart of the Dinamo Zagreb defence, pairing up with Josip Sutalo in the central defensive partnership. In addition, Robert Ljubicic might come into the team in place of Petar Bockaj, with Stefan Ristovski picking himself on the right flank.
Ademi will start alongside Luka Ivanusec in the middle of the park, with the Dinamo Zagreb captain having the responsibility of keeping Mason Mount quiet. Dario Spikic and Mislav Orsic should start on the flanks, with Bruno Petkovic and Martin Butarina forming the hosts’ strike partnership.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Livakovic; Ristovski, Sutalo, Peric, Ljubicic; Spikic, Ademi, Ivanusec, Orsic; Petkovic, Baturina
Unlike his counterpart in the Dinamo Zagreb dugout, Thomas Tuchel has a few pressing fitness issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Stadion Maksimir. On Tuesday, the Chelsea manager will be bereft of the services of only one first-team player.
N’Golo Kante continues to nurse a hamstring injury and will remain on the sidelines until after the international break. The only other absentee for Chelsea against Dinamo Zagreb might be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, although he has travelled with the west London club to Croatia.
— Pys (@CFCPys) September 5, 2022
Edouard Mendy has blown hot and cold in the early days of the 2022/23 season. But Thomas Tuchel tends to stick by the Senegalese goalkeeper even when he goes through a lean patch. So Mendy should start between the sticks for Chelsea, who will line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation against Dinamo Zagreb.
Wesley Fofana was slow off the blocks for Chelsea this past weekend but will look to continue growing as a pivotal player for the west Londoners. The French centre-back will form the central defensive unit with Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly. Reece James will benefit from Fofana’s presence behind him and get more freedom to express himself as the right wing-back.
Meanwhile, Ben Chilwell might have done enough to return to the starting eleven after scoring in the come-from-behind 2-1 win over West Ham United this past weekend. Meanwhile, Tuchel will likely field his strongest midfield pairing, with Mateo Kovacic slowly regaining sharpness. The Croat will start alongside Jorginho in the middle of the park.
But Jorginho will not be the only player returning to the starting eleven on Tuesday, with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz also due to get a recall. Mount will likely reprise an advanced role instead of sitting deeper, while Havertz will be raring to spearhead the Chelsea attack versus Dinamo Zagreb after scoring the match-winner against West Ham. Raheem Sterling, Chelsea’s in-form attacker, will complete the starting eleven.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Sterling; Havertz
- Tuesday’s contest will be the first-ever European meeting between Dinamo Zagreb and Chelsea. Dinamo Zagreb will be Chelsea’s first-ever Croatian opponent in a competitive match. The Blues last faced a side from a particular nation in European competition for the very first time in October 2018, beating Belarussian outfit BATE Borisov 3-1 in the UEFA Europa League.
- Chelsea will be the ninth English club to face Dinamo Zagreb in all European competitions. The Croatian giants have won two of their last three meetings with English opponents (L1), as many as their first 16 such matches beforehand (W2 D3 L11).
- Dinamo Zagreb have won just five of their 42 UEFA Champions League matches (D7 L30), including only two of their last 33 (D4 L27). Among clubs to play 30+ games in the competition, only AEK Athens (7 per cent) and FCSB (10 per cent) have a poorer win rate than the Citizens (12 per cent).
- Chelsea have only lost one of their last 11 away games in the UEFA Champions League (W8 D2), a 0-1 defeat at Juventus in September 2021. Indeed, that result in Turin is the only loss in their last 17 group stage matches home and away in the competition (W11 D5).
- Mislav Orsic is Dinamo Zagreb’s all-time leading scorer in major European competitions with 17 goals (excluding qualifiers). The 29-year-old is also the Croatian club’s top European Cup/Champions League goalscorer, netting four goals in his only previous season in the competition (2019/20).
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Havertz continues to blow hot and cold at Chelsea despite brimming with potential. The German international has started the 2022/23 season slowly after struggling to make his mark in the first few games. But the 23-year-old will be eager to turn the tide after scoring the match-winning goal against West Ham United this past weekend.
The pace in UEFA Champions League fixtures tends to suit Havertz more, and he will fancy his chances of scoring in a second successive match. But failure to beat Dominik Livakovic or influence the proceedings will be detrimental to Havertz’s fortunes, especially with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now on board at Chelsea.
Dinamo Zagreb 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea might have looked shaky on their travels thus far in the 2022/23 season, but they tend to perform better in away UEFA Champions League games, also doing so last season. The Blues also have a solid record on the road in recent years, although they might have an uphill task to get the better of Dinamo Zagreb.
The Croatian giants have already played nearly three times as many games as Chelsea this term and will be sharper in most areas. But the gulf in quality might make the difference for Chelsea, especially with several players looking to prove a point. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Thomas Tuchel’s charges on Tuesday.