The Finnish champions made it through to the 3rd qualifying stage by beating Bangor City 13:0 on aggregate, but there are no doubts that they now face a much tougher task. Dinamo easily eliminated Nefthci and they are now hoping to get one step closer to the Champions League group stages.
Helsinki just ended 13-match winning run
HJK Helsinki are without a doubt the biggest as well as the richest club in Finland and they do not really have a decent competition in weak Finnish Veikkausliiga. While that allows them to win the league title almost every single season, the lack of big games in domestic championship is proving to be a real bother when HJK face big European sides. As a result, Helsinki have only once made it to the Champions League group stages, back in 1998 and haven’t been even close to repeating that success over the last few years. Last season, they managed to eliminate Lithuanian champions Ekranas, having won 2:1 on aggregate, but then lost both games to Serbian champions Partizan, the team that are of similar quality to Dinamo Zagreb. Helsinki have proved they are in very good form by scoring no less than 13 goals against weak Bangor City in the previous round, but they could now find it tough against a side with a lot of experience in European competitions.
Sebastian Mannstrom returned into action after recovering from injury, meaning that coach Antti Muurinen will now have full squad to choose from.
Will Champions League group stage remain just a dream?
Dinamo Zagreb are one of the richest teams in the Balkan area, but they have somehow yet to qualify for the Champions League group stages. Despite the heavy investment in the playing squad, the Modri would always find a way to disappoint in Europe, so their fans are obviously hoping that will not be the case this time. In all fairness, Dinamo now boast a very good squad, with players like Tonel, Vida, Cufre, Badelj, Leko and Beciraj, and there is no doubt they are the favourites in the clash with Helsinki. The Croatian champions were not at their best in the second qualifying stage against Neftchi but they still managed to record a 3:0 victory in the first leg, before missing several good chances to win the second leg as well. Dinamo kept the spirits high with a comfortable win over Inter Zapresic in Croatian league and they are now looking to win in Helsinki as well.
Coach Krunoslav Jurcic rested Jerko Leko, Luis Ibanez, Sammir and Ivan Krstanovic at the weekend, so they will be back to the starting line-up, while Lenadro Cufre remains a doubt.
Seeing they are in very good form at the moment, Helsinki are likely to attack Dinamo, which could come back to haunt them as the Croatians play better when their opponents open up, and this is where their experience can come to the fore. I really believe that Dinamo can win this game, but given their past record at European travels, they should only be backed with a small to medium stake.
Our prediction: Away win
Odds: 2.40 (7/5)