One of the most interesting ties in the Euro 2012 play-offs will see resurgent Turkey play host to underperforming Croatia in what should be a great game at Turk Telekom Arena.
After missing out on the 2010 World Cup, the national team chiefs were determined not to let that happen again, so they did well to appoint experienced coach Guus Hiddink before the start of the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Despite having access to a large pool of talented players, the Dutchman struggled to get the best out of his side, especially on the travels.
Nonetheless, thanks to some very good performances at home and good results in the clashes against direct rivals for the second place in the group, Turkey managed to finish the campaign just behind Spain and thus ensured their place in the play-offs.
Guus Hiddink’s side have been pretty convincing at home of late, winning four home games and losing only to mighty Germany, and considering that Croatia are largely underperforming at the moment, odds of 2.38 (11/8) offered by Stan James on home win look too good to pass.
Real Madrid star Nuri Sahin misses out due to a lack of match fitness, but Hamit Altintop returns after recovering from injury.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Bolat – Gonul, Cetin, Korkmaz, Balta – Selcuk Inan, Topal – Kazim, Turan, Altintop – Yilmaz.
Croatia have been largely underperforming ever since they reached the Euro 2008 and after missing out on the 2010 World Cup, they could stay without a place at another major tournament.
Slaven Bilic’s side were placed in a pretty easy group for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, with Greece and Israel the only notable sides in the group, but they had to settle for a second-place finish after losing the crucial qualifier in Greece.
Away defeats to Georgia and Greece ended up costing the Croats dearly, so they will have to show a big improvement if they want to get something from this clash.
The atmosphere in the national team is far from perfect with the media already calling for Slaven Bilic to resign and that obviously has a negative effect on the team’s performances.
Numerous injuries are making the job even harder for the gaffer, with key defender Dejan Lovren and Ivan Strinic definitely out, and Vedran Corulka a major doubt.
Niko Kranjcar, Mladen Petric and Sime Vrsaljko are also sidelined, but Danijel Pranjic and Ivica Olic are back.
Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Pletikosa – Srna, Simunic, Vida, Pamic – Rakitic, Modric, Vukojevic, Perisic – Eduardo, Mandzukic.