Dinamo Zagreb
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Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Dinamo Zagreb

| 06.09.2015

Dinamo Zagreb are rank 10/1 outsiders with Coral to come through a Champions League pool which also contains Arsenal, Bundesliga big boys Bayern Munich and Greek titans Olympiakos. An absence of talent in its prime does not necessarily mean the group is just a formality, however.

Domestic league: Croatian First Football League, also known as Prva HNL

How they qualified: Dinamo not only delivered on the domestic front, but dominated the Prva HNL retaining the title last term without losing.

Best Champions League era performance: Zagreb have graced the Champions League group stage on four previous occasions – the latest being 2012/13.

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Coach: You’d be forgiven for not having heard of captain-turned-coach Zoran Mamic, who was unused substitute cover for more lauded compatriots Niko Kovac and Slaven Bilic in midfield and at centre half in the Croatia squad that finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France.

A Bundesliga runner-up with Bayer Leverkusen in 1999/2000, his playing career was topped and tailed at Dinamo, where he later entered coaching and has occupied the top job in the dugout from October 2013.

Ins and outs: Celtic swooped for talented defender Jozo Simunovic when they sought a last-gasp replacement for Virgil van Dijk, but happily Gordon Schildenfeld returned to the club, while Chile striker Angelo Henriquez made a permanent move to Zagreb from Manchester United.

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Familiar face: Henriquez can hardly be called a familiar face from Old Trafford, as he never actually played a competitive first-team game for the Red Devils, but did have a loan spell at Wigan Athletic. He scored once in eight outings during that stint at the DW Stadium.

Key players: Apart from their Algerian-Chilean strikeforce of El Arbi Hillel Soudani, Henriquez and Junior Fernandes, there is a plentiful Portuguese contingent that help make Dinamo tick, predominantly in the form of midfield pair Goncalo Santos and Paulo Machado, who give grit and guile to the engine room.

Ivo Pinto is a steady operator at right back, but goalie Eduardo Carvalho brings a certain pedigree of three major international tournaments (2010 and 2014 World Cup, plus Euro 2012) and 34 caps under his belt.

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Ones to watch: Most of the players considered in this bracket are out on loan with Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan) and Duje Cop (Malaga) looking to establish themselves in the Croatia national starting XI, but there’s a couple to keep an eye on that are still in Zagreb.

Winger Marko Pjaca had a breakthrough campaign last term with 14 goals in all competitions, while Bosnian attacking pair Armin Hodzic and Amer Gojak are youngsters that will really push for places.

Emerging talents: Teenage duo Ante Coric and Dani Olmo, who is just 17, are both packed with potential, and Dinamo’s bold policy of blending youth with experience could well contain them or the above youngsters.

CL group and fixtures: Group F

v Arsenal (home), September 16th
v Bayern Munich (away), September 29th
v Olympiakos (home), October 20th
v Olympiakos (away), November 4th
v Arsenal (away), November 24th
v Bayern Munich (home), December 9th



Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.