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Preview: Dinamo Zagreb vs. Sheriff Tiraspol - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Dinamo Zagreb and Sheriff Tiraspol, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Seeking to book a spot in the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history, Sheriff Tiraspol take a three-goal lead to Croatia as they meet Dinamo Zagreb in Wednesday's playoff second leg.

A stunning victory in Moldova puts them in the driving seat ahead of the return, while Dinamo must find inspiration after a woeful first-leg performance.

Match preview

Dinamo Zagreb's Mislav Orsic pictured on February 25, 2021© Reuters

After seeing off Legia Warsaw over two legs of a tightly contested tie in the previous round, Dinamo Zagreb could have been forgiven for thinking that the hard work was done, as they aim to reach the Champions League proper having missed out last year.

However, in the European football outpost of Tiraspol last week, they were picked apart by a clinical Sheriff side, who netted just before and after the break, before sealing a famous 3-0 win through Adama Traore's 80th-minute strike - his fourth of the qualifying campaign.

By far the more experienced of the two teams when it comes to top-level continental action, Dinamo must now bounce back immediately at Stadion Maksimir if they are to return to the elite this term, having last featured in the group phase in 2019 - finishing fourth in a group also involving Atalanta, Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Damir Krznar's side also enjoyed their adventure to the quarter-finals of last season's Europa League - remaining unbeaten in Group K and taking down Tottenham Hotspur in the last 16 - but would rather avoid dropping into the second-tier competition this week.

The Croatian champions of four years in a row started the current campaign at the first stage of the process and all has been plain sailing until now, with their domestic form also keeping them near the top of the Prva Liga table. Their latest win came in the derby against Lokomotiva on Saturday, thanks to Spurs slayer Mislav Orsic's late strike.

Dinamo's talented forward was instrumental in engineering a stunning comeback against the Premier League side last season and could be required to work his magic again on Wednesday, as the Modri seek a minor miracle - and a minimum of three goals.

Having impressively beaten Red Star Belgrade in the third qualifying round to advance to this stage, it was known that Sheriff would pose a significant threat to their Croat counterparts' qualification hopes, but last week's events in the Transnistrian capital were beyond their fans' wildest dreams.

An ambitious outfit overseen by head coach Yuriy Vernydub have now played seven times in this season's competition; beating Teuta and Alashkert before claiming the major scalp of Red Star in the third round by virtue of a 1-0 second-leg win.

As 19-times domestic title-winners, Sheriff are well accustomed to taking part in qualifying, but are now within touching distance of the bright lights of an autumn spent in the prestigious group stage. The Zholto-chornyye have never before managed to advance that far - though have competed four times in the Europa League - so will be desperate to finish the job in Zagreb.

Brazil-born striker Henrique Luvannor - a former Moldovan international - led the attack with a wholehearted performance last week, while the pacy Traore applied the finishing touches, and Vernydub will expect his multinational team to again pose problems on the break against a Dinamo side who are bound to dominate possession.

Dinamo Zagreb Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L

Dinamo Zagreb form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Sheriff Tiraspol Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Sheriff Tiraspol form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Team News

Dinamo Zagreb's Mislav Orsic celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League on March 18, 2021© Reuters

Dinamo coach Damir Krznar will be disheartened, but not surprised, that midfield mainstay Lovre Majer is on the verge of completing a move to Ligue 1 side Rennes. The Modri's number ten will undergo a medical in the coming days, so Amer Gojak is expected to line up at the Maksimir on Wednesday.

The Bosnia international will join Mislav Orsic, Bruno Petkovic and Luka Ivanusec in a familiar-looking attack, while in defence, Francois Moubandje could start after replacing Bartol Franjic in Tiraspol and then starting at left-back on Saturday.

Experienced defender Kevin Theophile-Catherine was left out entirely at the weekend, and following the defensive horror show in the first leg, may find himself replaced by Franjic in the centre of the home side's defence.

Sheriff have not been in action since last Tuesday's win, and the Moldovan champions have only one fresh injury concern to deal with.

Trinidad and Tobago left-back Keston Julien played for the first 53 minutes last time out, before going off with a suspected hamstring pull, so could be set to sit the second leg out. If so, then Fernando Costanza would be in line to deputise.

Malian midfielder Moussa Kyabou also misses out through a previously sustained injury, but otherwise Yuriy Vernydub is free to select a probable 4-2-3-1 formation with stalwart striker Henrique Luvannor as the lone centre-forward. Meanwhile, Edmund Addo should retain his spot in the engine room alongside Sebastien Thill, after the pair excelled together last week.

Dinamo Zagreb possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Ristovski, Franjic, Peric, Moubandje; Misic, Gojak, Jakic; Ivanusec, Petkovic, Orsic

Sheriff Tiraspol possible starting lineup:
Athanasiadis; Cristiano, Arboleda, Dulanto, Costanza; Addo, Thill; Traore, Kolovos, Yansane; Luvannor

SM words green background

We say: Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 Sheriff Tiraspol (Sheriff win 4-3 on aggregate)

Dinamo are set to throw all of their considerable attacking talent at their visitors, but they clearly had trouble keeping the back door shut last week and will get caught out again.

For their persistence, heart and incisive final-third play, Sheriff should be rewarded with a group stage place, while their hosts must content themselves with another Europa League campaign.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data

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