The Champions League often gets accused of featuring up the same old teams and the same old matchups, but for Chelsea, this is a brand new day as we take on a team we’ve never played before. Dinamo Zagreb will be the 198th different opponent in Chelsea history.
That said, Dinamo are not exactly an unknown minnow. The most successful club from Croatia on both the domestic and European fronts, they recently reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League (2021) and have a continental trophy in their cabinet, when they beat Leeds United in the final of the 1967 Fairs Cup, the precursor to that competition (by way of the UEFA Cup).
But Dinamo are perhaps best known for their amazing youth academy, which has produced the likes of Luka Modrić, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinečki, and our very own Mateo Kovačić. Highly coveted Joško Gvardiol is another recent graduate.
Thomas Tuchel, in what will be his 100th game in charge of Chelsea, is expecting to face a team full of individual quality and speed, looking to make it a famous night in this historic city.
Date / Time: Tuesday, September 6, 2022, 17.45 BST; 12:45pm EDT; 10:15pm IST
Venue: Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Croatia
Referee: István Kovács (on pitch); Paolo Valeri (VAR)
Forecast: hot, searing sunshine, especially with the early evening kick-off
On TV: BT Sport 4 (UK); TUDN, UniMás (USA); Sony TEN 1 (India); SuperSport Football Plus (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, Univision Now (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Dinamo Zagreb team news: Dinamo are coming off their fifth consecutive league title, and the 16th in the last 17 seasons, and already have an eight-point lead after the first eight games of the new season. Almost literally a one-team league, that HNL. They did lose star center back Bartol Franjić to VfL Wolfsburg this summer,
Familiar names in the squad may include summer arrival Josip Drmić, a striker who failed to catch on at Norwich City after making a name for himself in the Bundesliga and the 2014 World Cup with Switzerland, and right back Kévin Théophile-Catherine, who had one good season in the Premier League with Cardiff City nearly ten years ago. But chances are, it’s the unknowns who might hurt us rather than the washed up cast-offs. Mislav Oršić leads the team in scoring, having scored at least 20 in all competitions for three seasons running.
Former Croatia national team head coach Ante Čačić, whose last name takes forever to type despite having just five characters as you wait for the diacritic options to pop up, took over in April and has lost just 1 of his 20 games in charge — that was the away leg of the last qualifier to the group stage, but they overturned that 1-0 deficit against Bodø/Glimt with a 4-1 second leg victory at home.
Chelsea team news: Chelsea arrive with 23 players in the squad, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Denis Zakaria, both of whom should be in line for their first minutes for Chelsea. Thiago Silva was spared the wear and tear of travel; he’s the only absentee other than N’Golo Kanté’s hamstrings.
After the dramatic ending on Saturday, we could certainly use a steady, solid, straightforward win, especially away from home where we’ve struggled quite badly so far this season. An early goal could propel us towards an outcome of that sort; anything else, and things might get interesting.
Previously: This is our first ever game against Dinamo Zagreb and the first ever game against a team from Croatia in fact. So here’s 10 minutes of open training from last night.