Dinamo Zagreb v West Ham
Thursday 16 September, 17:45
Live on BT Sport 2
Dinamo keen to make amends for Sheriff debacle
Dinamo Zagreb will watch this week's Champions League games with envy, as they will feel it should have been them turning out in European football's top competition. The Croatian champions were firm favourites heading into their final playoff tie with Moldovan side Sheriff, but were swept aside 3-0 in the away leg and couldn't recover at the Maksimir, drawing 0-0.
Dinamo are dominant domestically, but even in the Croatian top flight they have struggled at times. They are top of the league, level on points with old foes Hajduk Split, but they have lost at home to Slaven Koprivnica and have drawn 3-3 at Rijeka, having trailed 3-2.
There are however still some very talented players in the Dinamo line-up. Mislav Orsic scored a stunning hat-trick as Dinamo dumped out Spurs in last season's Europa League, while Croatian international striker Bruno Petkovic can be a real handful. Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic is rock-solid, and ex-Cardiff defender Kevin Theophile-Catherine has become a strong leader at the back.
Hammers take unprecedented step
The Hammers have made history. For the first time, West Ham will contest the group stage of the Europa League, and after last season's heroics they should be confident of making progress. David Moyes has overseen an unbeaten start to the Premier League season, although he was critical of his side's attacking play in Saturday's goalless draw at Southampton.
Michail Antonio was sent off late on in that south coast clash, so he's likely to feature in this one, and he continues to be a talismanic figure for the East London club. The 31-year-old has rattled in four goals in four Premier League games this term, and he bagged 10 league goals last season. Although Jesse Lingard's creativity and drive are no longer available following his return to Manchester United, the Hammers hope that Nikola Vlasic can fill that void. After an unsuccessful spell in England with Everton, Vlasic rebuilt his career and his reputation in Russia, and he returns to his native Croatia with a spring in his step. He's been used sparingly so far by Moyes, but he should make an impact in the long term.
West Ham are unbeaten in their last five away games in the league, and they have only lost one of their last seven. With Genk and Rapid Vienna also in the section, Moyes can't afford a slip-up here, so I'd expect him to field a fairly strong line-up.
Get West Ham onside but win might be a stretch
As a unit, West Ham simply don't have experience at this level, and while I can't see them losing this, I'm not sure I can get hugely excited by their price of 2.285/4 in the Match Odds market. A trip to Zagreb isn't the intimidating prospect it once was, but Dinamo are still an experienced outfit that is used to winning.
You could use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder (see offer below) to back a combination of Under 3.5 Goals and West Ham/Draw at 1.768/11. That way, you win if it's 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 to West Ham, or if the game ends 0-0 or 1-1.
Goals might be hard to come by
Croatian journalists who follow Dinamo seem to think they'll adopt a safety-first approach here, and I like the look of backing No in the Both Teams To Score market at 2.26/5. That bet has paid out in six of Dinamo's eight European games this season (they played a lot of UCL qualifiers), and it paid out in four of their last six UEL matches.
Antonio an option at odds-against
If David Moyes does decide to select the in-form Michail Antonio from the start, then he is an attractive option in the To Score market at 2.3811/8 on the Sportsbook.
On the Dinamo side of things, the talented Orsic is available at a chunky 4.216/5. He tends to come alive on the European stage, having also netted a hat-trick at Champions League level.