Romanian heavyweights Dinamo Bucuresti have been given an unfavourable draw in the Europa League qualification as they are due to lock horns with resilient La Liga side Athletic Bilbao, who have been installed as clear-cut favourites to go through to the final qualifying round.
Rivaldo arriving in Romania
Former Brazil international and one of world’s iconic footballers Rivaldo has caused quite a hype ahead of Dinamo Bucuresti’s first leg against Athletic Bilbao. Former Barcelona star will be in the stands of the Arena Nationala in Bucharest to have a closer look at his son Rivaldinho as he prepares to guide the Romanian giants through a difficult test. The 22-year-old forward joined Dinamo this year from Internacional and has already made 11 league appearances and scored 2 goals. Dinamo Bucuresti starlet scored the first goal of the new season for his team in a 3-0 win at FC Juventus Bucuresti thus announcing he could play a big part in Dinamo’s new campaign. The 18-time Romanian champions have big plans for the 2017/18 season, but the Athletic Bilbao match-up will come as a huge test to their ambitions. Cosmin Contra and Dinamo’s management have done a great job in the transfer market thus far, bolstering the squad with Diogo Salomao from Mallorca, whereas Veracruz midfielder Juan Angel Albin and Cluj holding dynamo Felipe Nacimento have also joined the club this summer.
Rivaldinho will once again lead the line upfront for Dinamo Bucuresti, although he could be pushed in a more dropped-back role behind Nemec who is expected to spearhead the attack.
Felipe Nascimento is pushing for a starting berth in the midfield after his cameo performances in the first two rounds of the new Romanian season.
Athletic Bilbao have had a rather inconsistent preseason thus far with the Basque side alternating among all three outcomes over the past five matches against Sion, Fenerbahce, Club Brugge and Valladolid, respectively. Cuco Ziganda has been experimenting with a couple of different tactical approaches during what has been a relatively quiet summer for the Basque side. Athletic Bilbao are yet to bolster their ranks during the summer transfer window but are thought to be on the verge of recruiting Borussia Dortmund defender Mikel Merino, who looks set for a return to Spain after a disappointing spell in the Bundesliga. Bilbao are also thought to be weighing up move for Cezar Azpilicueta, but it seems as if any transfer dealing would largely depend on the outcome of Athletic Bilbao’s European qualification. The Basque club are hoping to get into the Europa League group stage for the fifth year running and to make a step forward in relation to their last year’s performance in the competition. The Basque were eliminated in the Round of 32 by APOEL after a 4-3 aggregate defeat.
Ziganda will have no major selection issues for the forthcoming fixture, apart from Yerai Alvarez who has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will have to go through a chemotherapy.
Dinamo Bucuresti are hoping to grab a positive result from the first leg and travel to Spain with something to fight for. Athletic Bilbao are the more quality side of the two, however, and are expected to show their individual and team dominance over the Romanian side en route to the group stage of the competition.
Top pick: Athletic Bilbao 1.62 (8/13) @Bet365
Alternative pick 1: Athletic Bilbao to win to Nil 2.45 (29/20) @BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Both teams to score – No 1.62 (8/13) @WilliamHill